The education outreach program

The education outreach program at the Bristol Historical Association has been busy showing their power point in the schools. Fourth graders learn about the history city of Bristol while viewing actual artifacts.
For a Bristol History program contact Barbara Smith -



'On Thursday February 12, 2015, the celebration and program for the 125th Anniversary of the independent City of Bristol VA will begin. The Bristol Historical Association is coordinating this celebration with the City of Bristol. This event will  followed by an exhibit at the Bristol Country Museum from February 17 to March 8, 2015.  BHA will curate and sponsor this exhibit.'

Bristol, Virginia, Commemorates 125 Years Of Independence
BRISTOL, VA – On February 12 from 6:30-8:00 pm, the City of Bristol, Virginia, will host a community-wide celebration in observance of the 125th Anniversary of the town of Goodson, Virginia, changing its name and its charter to become the independent City of Bristol, Virginia.

The year was 1890: Benjamin Harrison was settling into his second term in the Oval Office; Nellie Bly had just completed her historic round-the-world journey in 72 days; The United Mine Workers was established and; hit songs were determined by sheet music sales, or the melodies emanating from the burgeoning Tin Pan Alley district of New York.

As these worldwide events unfolded, on February 12, 1890, the community leaders of Goodson, Virginia, convened to modify the locale’s charter, creating the independent city that would, from that day forward, be known as Bristol, Virginia, the fraternal twin of Bristol, Tennessee.

In 1852, Colonel Samuel Eason Goodson founded the community named Goodsonville, which adjoined the existing Bristol on the north of Beaver Creek. Goodson, a Virginia legislator, was instrumental in re-routing the railroad survey from east of Bristol, near Paperville, to the two towns, making the union of the two cities a lucrative business move.

Joseph R. Anderson's town straddled the state line south of Beaver Creek and includes most of current downtown Bristol. In 1856, the entire Virginia side of Bristol became known as Goodson, Virginia in honor of Colonel Goodson, then in 1890 changed the charter to become the independent city of Bristol Virginia. Bristol, Virginia, is one of few cities in the United States that is not part of a county government.

At the anniversary celebration, retired Bristol, Virginia, Circuit Court Judge, Charles “Butch” Flannagan, will present a lecture about the early changes in the City’s charter, and how those changes have continued to impact the growth and governance of the City for well over a century.

“Judge Flannagan is widely lauded as one of the leading experts on Southwest Virginia’s judicial history,” said Tim Buchanan, President of the Bristol Historical Association.

“His presentation will be compelling, and will reveal much about the City’s history and the significance associated with those early days of collaboration that still define how both Bristols interact today,” he added.

According to Buchanan, the celebration will also include refreshments and commemorative items, with the first 100 people through the door receiving a limited-edition pewter coin in honor of the anniversary. The event is offered free to the public.

Continuing in the days after the anniversary event, the public will be able to get a rare look at some important early documents and artifacts from the Bristol’s early history at a special exhibit held at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
Entitled, Significant Elements: Bristol Virginia, from Sapling Grove to Independent City, the exhibit will be housed in the Learning Center of the museum from February 17 through March 8, and will include documents, clothing and ephemera.
According to Buchanan, who will curate the exhibit, on display will be around 15 items that are significant to the timeline of the City.
“With the items in the exhibit, viewers will have a visual interpretation of the transition from two private estates in the Sapling Grove tract, into the towns of Bristol, Virginia and Tennessee, Goodsonville, Goodson and, ultimately, the independent city of Bristol, Virginia,” he said.
The exhibit will be held from February 17 through March 8 in the Learning Center of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, 520 Birthplace of Country Music Way, Bristol, VA. The Learning Center, located on the Museum’s main floor, is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday, 1 to 5 pm. There is no charge to see the Significant Elements installation.

The City’s anniversary celebration is hosted in collaboration with the Bristol Historical Association, BVU, the Bristol Train Station and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.



The Bristol Historical Association has just published its first cookbook, Past and Repast - A Fine Collection of Recipes. This book contains almost 500 recipes, some dating from Bristol's early years. Historic images from our archives, facts and trivia compliment the recipes. Click here to visit our store page to BUY.

Southern favorites such as "Spoonbread," "Hoppin John," "Ambrosia," "Charlotte Russe," and "Dandelion Wine" are included as well as intriguing recipes for "Not Insane Yet Cake" (our 1950's original), Polar Bear Salad (no polar bears were harmed, of course), "Potatoes in Jackets", "Rinctom Diddy" and many more.

The cookbook committee - Tim Buchanan, Christine Caldwell, Marianne Fischer, Gail Fleenor, Isabelle Ladd, Susan Long, Gwen Smith, Janet Smith, Carolyn Williams and Roy Williams - thanks everyone who shared their recipes, new and old, easy and challenging, lean and decadent.

Cookbooks are available for $25.00 at the November 10, 2014, BHA meeting and at Boxworks, Boxwood, the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Gla-Mar Gallery, Gwen's Herb Shop and Willow Creek.

The Bristol Historical Association cookbook has been made in recognition of the thirty-fifth anniversary of the organization.  This cookbook is an exclusive collection of recipes including favorites from modern kitchens and old fashioned made-from-scratch recipes from early Bristol families. In addition to recipes, this book also contains historic images of the Twin-Cities along with articles highlighting local historical facts and trivia.

Historical Association Commemorates 35th Anniversary

Bristol Virginia – The Bristol Historical Association will commemorate its 35th anniversary year with several events during the month of November.  A general membership meeting will be held on Monday, November 10 at 6:30pm where charter members and former officers of the organization will be recognized. 

The following weekend, on Sunday, November 16th from 2:30pm to 4:30pm, an Anniversary Gathering will be held to exhibit association and Bristol history as well as displays portraying current projects of the association.  Among these projects there will be a slide presentation on the restoration of the Robert Preston House being restored at Exit 7 and an educational video that is presented in Bristol elementary schools. Refreshments will also be provided and special music will be provided by Bristol’s Own Dixieland Band.  The November 10 and 16 events are open to the public and will be held at the Bristol Public Library.

The 1970’s was a significant period in the history of the Twin-Cities.  Out of concern about a period of decline in downtown Bristol and almost destruction by Urban Renewal came a vision to preserve the history of the city.  The effort was made by a small group of concerned citizens, led by Bristol Virginia elementary school teacher Joyce Kistner.  Following months of generating interest in the project the Bristol Historical Association was formed in 1979 with 58 charter members.

The association has a considerable collection and archives on the history of the city.  Among its real estate holdings is the Robert Preston House an Eighteenth Century homestead located at Exit 7 and the birthplace of Bristol’s own Tennessee Ernie Ford on Anderson Street.  The association is very active in the community with public lectures & tours throughout the year, elementary school presentations, and a newly released collection of modern and vintage recipes from Bristol citizens. The association will also be leading the celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the independent City of Bristol Virginia in February of 2015.

For details on this program or information on the work of the Bristol Historical Association contact Tim Buchanan, BHA President, by e-mail, or visit the association’s Facebook page, Bristol History.

Bristol Historical Association
Founding & Charter Members (1979)

Founding Members:

Joyce Kistner, president
Christine Caldwell
Faith Dillow (Esposito)

Ann Greear
Janice Martin
Margaret Mitchell

Charter Members:

Charles Barnette
Billie Baxter
Kelly Booher (Child)
Marie (Robert) Broyles
Christine Caldwell
Virginia Caldwell
Amelia Copenhaver
Faith Dillow (Esposito)
Belva Droke
Amelia Eaves
Jonathan Edwards (Child)
Fred Entler
Mary Preston Gray
Ann Greear
Amy Harkleroad
Elizabeth G. (Lester) Harkleroad
Jennifer Harkleroad (Child)
Fan Hepburn
Elizabeth Hickam
Eric Hurt (Student)
Jean (Otis) Hurt
Lynn Hurt (Student)
Mark Hurt (Student)
Sandy Johnson (Child)
Jane H. Jones
Thelma Kelly
Jean King
Hans Kistner (Child)
Joyce Kistner
J.T. Lindsey
Ethel (S.C.) McChesney
Ann McClure
Bob McDaniel
Evelyn McDaniel
Martha Marshall
Doug Martin (Child)
Janice Martin
Margaret Mitchell
Brenda Otis
Jim Otis
L.R. Pierce (Child)
Margaret Piper
Clyde Reser
Ruby Reynolds
Dixie Sampson
Steven S. Sampson
Jack Saylor
Mary Saylor
Don Seiber
Monkey Senter
Harvey Spence
Howard Taylor
Gene Thompson
Joseph Van Pelt
Marian Van Pelt
William Wade
Billie Whisnant
Virginia Odell Willis
(58 Charter Members)

Program ExploreD Lewis & Clark’s Return Trip Through Region

Bristol Virginia – Local history buffs have enjoyed stories of the exploits of Daniel Boone as he cut trails into the western wilderness and the living history that can be found at the Capital of the Southwest at Rocky Mount.  Very few are aware of the pilgrimage by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in the region as they returned in 1806 from their historic exploration of the West Coast. Their travels led them up the Great Valley Road through present Bristol and Washington County Virginia.

A special presentation was scheduled by the Bristol Historical Association on Monday, September 8 on the Eastern path of Lewis and Clark and an effort to extend the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (LCNHT) through the Bristol area and Southwest Virginia.  The speaker at this meeting was Jim Mallory, the vice chairman of the Lewis and Clark Trust.  In attendance were representatives of the Meriwether Lewis family and members of the Lewis and Clark National Heritage Trail Board.

James L. (Jim) Mallory has taken up the cause for a completed Lewis and Clark National Heritage Trail (LCNHT) that would extend east from the 1806 return trip of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark at St Louis, Missouri.  Lewis, Clark and their companions traveled along the Wilderness Road to the Great Valley Road ending their official journey at Monticello and conferring with Thomas Jefferson.

Along with this meeting Jim Mallory, members of the LCNHT and the Bristol Historical Association visited historic sites and building interest in the extension of the official Lewis & Clark National Heritage Trail into East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.


Application has been made to the McGlothlin Foundation for the Education/Outreach Program in the school system

Window at Dent K. Burke  will be decorated for the month of June by Education/Outreach Committee

E.W.King House is marketed; ad to appear in historic magazines

East Hill Cemetery recently listed in the National Register:  Celebration scheduled for this summer

Renew your memberships! It's the only way we can survive!

Archival grant period ends this month; a great deal has been accomplished

Proposal made to City of Bristol VA for future use of Oak Street School Board Building as Arts/Cultural/History Center

Only five panoramic photographs of Historic Bristol left.  These have been extremely popular, great for gifts, office displays, etc.  To place your order email


The Robert Preston House
Walnut Grove: A House Steeped in History

From time to time in this column, I will be writing of old, unoccupied or abandoned houses. One notable house that is an outstanding landmark and that falls into this category is the old Robert Preston house known as Walnut Grove. This very old house near Bristol, Va's., Exit 7 that was home to many people for nearly two centuries has been unoccupied for several years. It is now in a sad state of repair and certainly can be called one of many endangered historic houses in this country. For some time, the Bristol Historical Association has been endeavoring to save it. I, for one, certainly hope the effort is successful.

At this point I will give a brief history of the Preston line that built and occupied this home for several generations. I will begin with John Preston who was born in County Deery Ireland in 1726. I have his ancestry back though 15 generations through the 1300s but it is too involved to get into here. This John married Eleanor Fairman who was born in 1725. They had three children, James, Robert and Walter. The family came to what is now WashingtonCountyVa., in 1770. John built a house that stood along several large walnut trees, thus came the name Walnut Grove. Family historians agree the first home was constructed of logs. A remnant of this first house may remain at the back of the present frame house. This first John died Sept. 1, 1796 while visiting his daughter who lived near the Weaver Cemetery in Sullivan County, Tenn. He is buried in what is now the oldest section of that cemetery. His widow lived on until Jan. 6, 1820 when she died in the present Walnut Grove house at the age of 95.

Robert Preston, son of this couple, was born in 1750. He married Miss Margaret Rhea on Sept. 28, 1780. She was born in 1757. There is some indication that he built the present frame house soon after their marriage. Several years ago, I went with a preservation specialist who, after lengthy examination of the house, estimated it was built in the mid 1780s. Robert Preston served as Washington County surveyor for 63 years. He was also sheriff of the county from 1800-1804. He had a store somewhere near his Walnut Grove house. Here at Pleasant Hill is a receipt from that store. He had several slaves on his large plantation. His wife died June 3, 1822. He remarried just a little later. After a long and eventful life, he died while trudging uphill through deep snow from his spring to his house on Dec. 16, 1833. He and his wife are buried in the nearby Cemetery.

Robert was the father of two children, John (born July 8, 1781) and Jane (some say she was his twin). John married Margaret Brown Preston, a sister of the noted Gen. Francis Preston of Abingdon, Va. He built the large brick house that now houses the Children's Advocacy Center. Jane married a cousin and her father's adopted son, Robert, known as Irish Bob Preston and they settled on a farm known as Locust Glen near Abingdon, Va. Colonel John Preston, son of Robert Preston Sr., had a son named Dr. Robert Fairman Preston born Dec. 5, 1804. He married Miss Sarah Marshall of Philadelphia whom he probably met while doing his medical studies in that city. His father John, who had inherited the old Walnut Grove property from his father, gave the estate to this son. The deed of conveyance is laid away somewhere here at Pleasant Hill. Dr. Preston moved into his grandfather's old home and spent the rest of his life there. He died there July 7, 1889.
One of the daughters of Dr. Preston was Mary, born 1828 and lived until 1900. Edmond Winston, surveyor who did much of the early work in Bristol, courted her for many years. During that time he named Mary Street for her. At the same time, he named Edmond Street for himself. She finally married him on June 11, 1867. (I am aware that some say the street was named for Mary, wife of Dr. A. J. Dunn. It should be remembered, though, she did not live on that street until many years after the street had been named). Another daughter of Dr. Preston died at the age of 3. Some say her ghost still appears from a front window at approaching strangers. Another daughter, Elizabeth, married Dr. Ezra Sheffey. A line of her descendents owned the property at Walnut Grove until recent years.

The old Walnut Grove house is a unique landmark that is certainly worthy of preservation.

History For Sale

Bristol's E. W. King House to be Sold

Every home has a history, but one that will soon be coming on the market in Bristol has its neighbors beat in the lore department. The home of E.W. King, one of the city's most influential early citizens, will be sold, and the new owner will not only be buying a big piece of Bristol's history but also a prominent chunk of downtown real estate.

Following several years of fundraising efforts in hopes of restoring the house as a museum dedicated to local history and culture, the Bristol Historical Association has decided to sell the property. Citing the double impact of the economic downturn and sharp increases in construction costs, BHA Committee Chair Nedra Hartley announced that the Board had voted to sell the house.  "The Bristol Historical Association is proud to have been the steward of this historic property.  We have accomplished our mission of protecting and preserving the E.W. King House. Our additional goals of educating the public about its owner and builder, Edward Washington King, and his tremendous influence on the growth and development of our twin cities have been accomplished through events held for and on the property over the last several years. We are now offering someone else the opportunity to own one of old Bristol's most beautiful and historic properties."

The nonprofit has owned and preserved a number of properties over the last 20 years in addition to the E.W. King House, including the Tennessee Ernie Ford House, the I.C. Fowler House, and the Robert Preston House. Although BHA's original charter did not include acquiring real estate, its mission to identify, preserve, interpret, and promote Bristol's heritage and culture has led to the ownership and protection of a number of historic structures. Most notable of the properties that BHA has been instrumental in protecting is the Bristol Train Station; by placing the Train Station under its non-profit umbrella until the Train Station Foundation acquired tax exempt status, BHA was able to initiate fundraising for the successful restoration of what is now a thriving downtown asset and source of pride for the community at large.  In other cases, through temporary ownership of important properties, BHA has found new owners with the vision and ability to restore these pieces of Bristol's historic fabric and preserve them for future generations to learn from and enjoy.
The house is listed in the National Historic Register and will be sold with certain covenants to maintain its status. The building has 3 full floors in addition to attic space and a basement. It boasts beautiful views of downtown Bristol and the surrounding mountains. There is a detached restored apartment on the property. The house retains many original architectural features and fixtures. Among the home's accouterments are original hardwood floors, paneled doors, elaborate mantels and tiled fireplaces, handcrafted wood moldings, and stately wainscoting. However, not all rooms exude such charm. The house was divided into apartments during the latter half of the century and has since weathered years of vacancy. Since acquiring it, the Association has replaced the roof and guttering, rebuilt the chimneys, and executed other necessary exterior repairs to protect the house.

The E.W. King House is one of the few remaining homes built at the beginning of the 20th Century in Bristol and provides an excellent example of Victorian architecture in the Queen Anne style. The structure is historically significant due to the impact that Edward Washington King had on the growth and development of Bristol both as a businessman and as a philanthropist. The location is of further historical importance because the house rests near the grounds of the 18th Century fort built by General Evan Shelby which served as a key stopover station for pioneers during the westward expansion of the United States.

Hartley said that interested parties have envisioned using the space for a variety of purposes, including office or retail space since the property is currently zoned B-3 General Business and occupies a high profile location at the corner of Anderson and 7th Streets. "This historic home is looking for new owners, someone who will appreciate the house itself and its association with one of our region's most preeminent citizens", Hartley said. "It takes someone with a sense of history," she said, "a sense of being in a structure with these important associations."   Interested parties can contact the BHA at


Notes from The President

Preserving the heritage of an area is the responsibility of its citizenry. As individuals and family members, we delight in discovering and claiming our personal histories. The same should be true of a community, especially when the community is as culturally and historically rich as our twin-cities of Bristol. We, as fellow Bristolians, regardless of our own lineages, are responsible for safeguarding and forwarding knowledge of our history to future generations.  Your membership and participation in the efforts of the Bristol Historical Association is vital to this endeavor.

Lessons in History
The Founding of Bristol by V.N. "Bud" Phillips

The heart of present Bristol Virginia/Tennessee is located upon land purchased in 1852 by Joseph R. Anderson from his father-in-law, Rev. James King. It was bought for the express purpose of founding a town at the junction point of two railroads that were soon to come. The actual survey of what would long be known as the Towns of Bristol began just after sunrise on August 1, 1852. The surveyor was Henry Anderson, a cousin of the town's founder. One of his assistants was old Si Goodson, a slave of the Reverend James King.

His legendary slave was reputed to be 120 years old at the time. It was long told in the Anderson & King families that old Si had prophesied the founding of Bristol at least ten years before he assisted in this notable survey. Soon after, the survey maps were made and lots offered for sale. Several contracts were made in the latter part of that year for town lots, but deeds were not made until the purchase prices were paid two or more years later. I consider this survey and offering of lots to be the real beginning of our city.  This town of Bristol was about evenly divided by the state line, with Bristol, Tennessee lying to the south and the original Bristol, Virginia located to the north. This northern portion of the town joined a development known as Goodsonville, which lay to the north of Beaver Creek. This latter development was founded by Col. Samuel E. Goodson. In 1856 the original Bristol, Virginia and Goodsonville were put together to form the composite town of Bristol, and was so incorporated that year. In 1890 all of the Virginia side of the city returned to the name Anderson had given his development in 1852.  After that early beginning the growth of  Bristol was rather rapid, and that growth has continued until we have the thriving cities that we know today. Truly a great oak has from a little acorn grown.

From the Archives

By Carolyn and Roy Williams

Did you know that you can purchase copies of  historic prints of old Bristol and her landmarks by visiting our BHA website?  Check out our online store, and tell your family and friends about the wonderful selection of photographic memories that are available for purchase there.

The Preston and Ford House Reports

The Ford House
by Brenda Otis

The Tennessee Ernie Ford House contains furnishings from the era when the Ford family resided at the house. Ernie said he could remember being scrubbed in the old original bathtub. The middle room honors the country music heritage of this region.. The back room, now restored as a bedroom, is the actual room in which Tennessee Ernie was born on February 13, 1919. For a schedule of open days or to arrange a visit to the Ford House please contact us at or the Bristol Chamber of Commerce at 423-989-4850.


The Robert Preston House
by Jan Rainero

The Robert Preston House at Walnut Grove, located on Lee Highway near Exit 7 has great importance to Washington County. This home and its log dependency were constructed around 1780 by Robert Preston, a member of the leading political family in southwest Virginia during the era of the American Revolution. Robert Preston was given his commission as surveyor of Washington County in 1779 by Thomas Jefferson who was the governor of Virginia at that time.  The BHA is currently undertaking efforts to save this historic structure.  To learn more or donate, please click here The Robert Preston House Brochure



The Editor's Corner

By Amy Hopper

We hope you enjoyed our first e-newsletter!  We plan to have additional features in the future, such as letters to the editor and a column devoted to questions about Bristol history.  We welcome your comments and invite you to email us at to leave your suggestions and feedback on how we can improve the newsletter for you!
Thanks for reading!
Warm Regards,

Have YOU renewed for this year?

Please check your membership status!!
If you have not renewed, we earnestly look forward to your timely renewal.

If you are unsure of your status, just check with your BHA Membership Chairperson,
Roxann Coulthard at  

Thank you for your devotion to making 
Bristol an ever better place to live! 

Bristol Historical Association
PO Box 204
Bristol, Tennessee 37621


Local Storyteller to Speak
“Through the Eyes of a Child”

Bristol Virginia – Whether young or old, we all have memories that are implanted in our youth. Many recollect the “good ole days” when life was slower, and impressionable children would soak in family stories of long ago.  They might bask in a visit to Bunting’s Drug Store, enjoying a hot dog and a cold vanilla shake.  Some will remember visits to King’s Department Store, the jute boxes at the Stateline Restaurant or eating at the Bristol Drug Store counter?  For many people these memories get more vivid as the years pass and a smaller group of storytellers pass on precious memories that will remain with us.  Jerry Necessary Ivey has such recollections that have shaped her life and are as vivid as they were in the 1950’s.

The Bristol Historical Association will present a program by Bristol native Jerry Necessary Ivey on “Bristol, Through the Eyes of a Child”.  This story telling session will be held on Monday November 8, 6:00 pm at the Bristol Public Library.  She will tell the story consisting of her memory walk up State Street about 1954 through her eyes as a child.  She was born at the old King’s Mountain Hospital in 1946 and was birthed during a rare inland hurricane that blew out the windows of the hospital.  That started her Bristol experience, which continued with her living in the Three Springs Community and commuting into the big city for her education.  There’s a fine line between fact and memory and Jerry Ivey will make her sentimental Bristol journey our own journey.

Please note that the meeting time for the Program has been changed to 6:00 pm to allow time to view a wonderful exhibition of the BHA’s Kelly and Green Photographic Collection on display outside the meeting room.   The storytelling program will then commence at 6:30 pm.  Refreshments will be served.  Come early and enjoy strolling through a rare photographic history of Bristol captured in time by the photographer’s lens.

This storytelling session is part of a general membership gathering of the Bristol Historical Association and is free and open to the general public.  The association’s December luncheon will be held Sunday December 5 at The Centre on Highway 421.  Our guest speaker will be Randell Jones, author of the award-winning books, In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone and Before They Were Hero’s at King’s Mountain.  He will share stories from the life of Daniel Boone and the participants of the Battle of King’s Mountain from the Holston region.  A further announcement on this special program will be made in November.

For further details on this presentation or other upcoming events contact program chairman Tim Buchanan, 276-669-3885. 

BHA's April Meeting Featured Judge Charles Flannagan

Charles Flannagan, retired judge from the Bristol Virginia Circuit Court, presented a fascinating, educational, and highly entertaining lecture for the BHA membership and general public on April 19th, entitled “Tales of Justice and Judges from Early Bristol”.  Judge Flannagan's presentation detailed the Bristol Virginia court system from its inception in the 19th century and included discussion on the famous state line issues, Bristol’s only death penalty case, a courtroom shooting, the court's relation to at least one US President, as well as many other human interest stories. 

Dr. Lawrence Fleenor, noted author and lecturer, Presented the BHA's May Program

Dr. Lawrence Fleenor spoke on the subject of “The Holston Region During the Late Eighteenth Century” on May 10th.  In addition to describing pioneer trails, including the Boone Trail, migration patterns, and military forts & campaigns during and preceding the American Revolution, Dr. Fleenor also incorporated information about early settlers and the history of many surnames in the region. 

Centennial Celebration of Bristol's Historic Sign

On April 30th, Bristol celebrated the 100th anniversary of the twin cities' landmark slogan sign.  The Bristol Sign has been recognized nationally as a rare and early example of electric signage straddling the state line in two cities.  It is one of only thirty signs nationwide listed with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The Bristol Sign Celebration featured a variety of events throughout the day including lectures by Tod Swormstedt, the director of the American Sign Museum, and "Snuffy Smith" cartoonist John Rose, a photo contest and exhibit, sales of Bristol related merchandise at the Bristol Train Station including commemorative posters signed by artist Sheryl Theriaut, and a gala reception followed by music, entertainment and remarks by guest speakers including the Mayberry Sheriff David Browning and the mayors of both Bristols. The celebration culminated in a rededication and grand lighting of the Sign at dusk accompanied by an impressive fireworks display. The festivities concluded with an exceptional musical variety show at the Paramount Theatre.  According to Tim Buchanan, chairman of the centennial committee, the events were designed to be “a fitting tribute to the most notable and unique landmark in the Twin-Cities”.  Many thanks to everyone who worked with such great diligence to achieve this goal with outstanding success!

Original Roof Finial Returns to the E.W. King House

Professor Stephen Huff of High Point University in North Carolina recently placed on indefinite loan one of the two original roof finials which once graced the highest points of the historic E.W. King House.  The finial is approximately three feet tall and is mounted on a custom made pedestal using the profile of the finial as a decorative motif.  Below is a photo of Dr. Huff delivering the finial and a photo showing the finial in its original location centered on the roof of the house.


Historical Masons at work on E.W. King House

(Bristol, TN) - The E.W. King House's magnificent chimneys are a striking and familiar landmark that have towered over downtown Bristol for 108 years. Masonry specialists from Midwest Maintenance Inc, headquartered in  Piqua, Ohio, are currently in Bristol to repair damage to the elaborate brickwork of the chimneys.  It is believed that the damage was caused by lightning during last year's storm season; bricks were shattered, and the structural integrity of at least one chimney was badly compromised. Midwest Maintenance was awarded the project following a collection of bids and comes highly recommended by architect Ellen Harris of Brevard, NC, who is preparing the preservation plan for the house. Midwest has performed historical restoration masonry work on many historic properties across the country, most recently the Hermitage in Nashville, TN. 

The E.W. King House is one of the few remaining homes built at the beginning of the 20th Century in Bristol and provides an excellent example of Victorian architecture in the Queen Anne style. The house was designed by George Franklin Barber (1854–1915) of Knoxville, TN, one of the most prolific and popular American architects of the late Victorian period. The house is historically significant due to the impact that Edward Washington King had on the growth and development of Bristol both as a businessman and as a philanthropist. The location is of further historical importance because the house rests on the grounds of the 18th Century fort built by General Evan Shelby which served as a key stopover station for pioneers during the westward expansion of our nation.The Bristol Historical Association plans to restore the E.W. King House as a house museum as well as a repository for artifacts and revolving
exhibits relating to important area events and an academic resource for school systems to use in making local history a fundamental and exciting aspect of students' curriculum. Additionally, several rooms of the 3 story structure will be dedicated for hosting parties, meetings, and a variety of community events. The E.W. King House is located at the corner of Anderson and 7th Streets in Bristol, TN.

Read the BHC news article - click here

Christmas Luncheon

The Bristol Historical Association held its annual Christmas Luncheon on Sunday, December 6 at the Virginian Golf Club.  Following a delicious holiday meal enjoyed by over 80 attendees, Dr. Jim Glanville of Blacksburg, Virginia presented a fascinating program about the early history of "Holstonia", a  term he has coined for our region in Southwest Virginia and Upper East Tennessee.  Dr. Glanville's lecture detailed recently uncovered archeological evidence of the presence of pre-Jamestown Europeans in the Holston Valley of Virginia, discoveries that are changing what we know of history in the Commonwealth of Virginia and could greatly impact the story of Southwest Virginia.
bristol historical association
L-R Newly Elected President Isabelle Ladd, Dr. Glanville, Program Director Tim Buchannan, outgoing President Mary Beth Rainero
Following the program, Mary Beth Rainero announced that in honor of Carolyn and Roy Williams' many years of dedicated and tireless work on behalf of the Association in the maintenance of the BHA archives and in the the identification, preservation, interpretation, and presentation of local history for the benefit of the community, the BHA's photographic collection will henceforth be known as "The Carolyn and Roy Williams Collection of Historic Photographs" and presented the Williams with a brass plaque bearing the collection's new title.
bristol historical association
L-R Isabelle Ladd, Roy and Carolyn Williams, and Mary Beth Rainero.


Music and Festivities at the E.W. King House during Rhythm and Roots

The Bristol Historical Association held theThird Annual E. W. King Open House on Saturday, September 19 during Bristol’s Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival.  Bands, including Hart Creek (above) and Andrea and Allen Clarke along with fiddler Rachel Renee Johnson of the Dixie Bee-Liners (below) performed for over 100 visitors throughout the day.

This event also featured Storytelling by David Claunch, “ (below) Jonesborough’s very own storytelling, motorcycle-riding clown”. David is a member of both the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild and the Beaver Creek Storytellers and performs as a storyteller as well as his alter ego, “Dilly-Dally” the Clown. 


In addition, both Bristol historian andauthor V.N. "Bud" Phillips and award-winning journalist and author Joe Tennis (below) were present for book signing, sales, and questions.


This event provided an opportunity for the public to tour the house and learn more about the role that it will play in the future as an educational tool as well as an integral part of Bristol's historic fabric and culture. The BHA plans to restore the E.W. King House as a house museum and a repository for artifacts and revolving exhibits relating to important area events as well as an academic resource for school systems to use in making local history a fundamental and exciting aspect of students' curriculum. 

To donate, send your contribution to the BHA at P.O. Box 204, Bristol, TN 37621-0204, designated for the E.W. King House Project.  Donations may be in the form of tribute giving in honor or memory of someone.  A planned gift, such as stock donation or an estate bequest, may help you give more than you thought possible while still providing you with favorable financial and/or tax benefits. 


In recognition of the 125th anniversary of Virginia Intermont College, the Bristol Historical Association is proud to present an historical overview of one of the region's great institutions of learning.

The foundation of Virginia Intermont College 125 years ago provided  education opportunities to a group that had been overlooked - women.   In 1884, Rev. J. R. Harrison, founder of the college, defied opposition to the idea of higher education for women to establish what was then called the Southwest Virginia Female Institute. By 1891, the institution had outgrown its original facilities in Glade Spring, Virginia, and moved to a new complex in Bristol, Virginia. It became one of the best-known institutions of its type and remains steadfast in focusing on the highest quality of higher education.

One of its most esteemed and well-known alumni, Mary Lou Smith, also an instructor at the college for more than 50 years, will present a history of Virginia Intermont College at the Bristol Public Library on Monday, August 10. This general membership meeting of the association will be held in the library conference room at 6:00pm and is free to the public.  

Early on, Virginia Intermont attracted students from around the world to its prestigious and unique programs. From one generation to another, thousands of young people have had unique and valuable experiences. In 1972, the college extended its influence by accepting men into its programs and instituted accelerated degree programs for working adults. Today, it is affiliated with the Baptist General Association of Virginia and is accredited to award Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Social Work and associate degrees in arts and science.

Smith, a 1955 graduate, was among three sisters who graduated from the college. She went on to earn additional degrees from East Tennessee State University and returned in 1957 to begin her tenure on the Virginia Intermont faculty, which now stands at 52 years. During those years, she has taught a variety of physical education and health courses and served as coach of the women’s swim and tennis teams. She is a dedicated teacher and has been bestowed many honors by the college, including an honorary Doctor of Science degree, the first ever Presidential Award, Distinguished Alumni Award, Outstanding Faculty Award and is listed in “Who’s Who Among American Teachers.” In 1993, the college’s Smith-Canter gymnasium was named in her honor as well as another longtime instructor. Dr. Smith is president of the college’s National Alumni Association.

For the anniversary, the college has adopted the motto: “Inspiring Lives of Leadership and Service for 125 years.” It will be celebrated with a Founder’s Day Dinner Sept. 17, 2009 at the Bristol Train Station.

The Bristol Historical Association is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Bristol area and providing topics of interest to the community.  With three historic properties in the city, the association is working toward a regional museum in the historic E.W. King House and restoration and maintenance of the Tennessee Ernie Ford birthplace.  Current efforts also are securing a permanent site for the eighteenth century Robert Preston House, to be located in Bristol’s Sugar Hollow Park.   For further details on upcoming events contact program chairman Tim Buchanan, 276-669-3885.  Isabelle Ladd  currently serves as president of the association.



Dinner in the Diner...
Nothing Could be Finer!

The Bristol Historical Association invites you to take a step back in time to enjoy an extraordinary and unique dining opportunity!

Bristol Train Station
The Bristol Historical Association is excited to announce that the Moultrie Diner will travel to Bristol to take part in our Star-Spangled 4th of July weekend festivities!

The Moultrie Diner, part of the Atlantic Coast line Railroad, now belongs to the Watauga Valley Chapter National Railway Historical Society.  Restored to its original 1950 thirty-six seat dining car configuration, the Moultire reflects the golden years of passenger train travel. The dining area has been refurbished in an elegant manner while keeping dependability, quality, and comfort as key objectives. Dining in the Moultrie is a unique experience enhanced by the matched china, crystal, silverware, and table linen characteristic of a bygone era. What better way to celebrate Bristol and the grand reopening of Bristol's newly and beautifully restored historic Depot!  

Dinner reservations are now being taken for the evenings of July 2nd and 3rd (Thursday and Friday) beginning at 6:30pm and are priced at  $50 per person with half of all proceeds designated as a donation to the Bristol Historical Association. Seating is limited to 36 persons per evening, so please call now to reserve your table for a gourmet dinner as well as a rare blast from the past...old fashioned and elegant dining in an authentic railroad car! 

For reservations, contact:
Carolyn  Williams, 276-669-6506,
or Roxanne Coulthard, 276-466-5357.

The Dining Car will also be open to the public for viewing only from 12:30pm- 5:00pm on Saturday, July 4th, at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Scott Street where the Norfolk Southern Bristol, Virginia Yard Office is located. Look for the Bristol Historical Association sign!

Special Encore Presentation Arranged for SUNDAY, JULY 5th
TWO Seatings 12:30pm and 6:30pm

Due to the overwhelming response and enthusiasm for this special event, the Bristol Historical Association is excited to announce that arrangements have just been made for two encore presentations of Dinner in the Diner to be held on Sunday, July 5th!  The first Sunday seating will be at 12:30pm, and the second seating will be at 6:30pm.  KP Duty will be the caterer for both Thursday and Friday's dinners, and the Troutdale will cater Sunday's dinners.

The Sunday dinners are also priced at  $50 per person with half of all proceeds designated as a donation to the Bristol Historical Association.  Seating is limited to 36 persons per seating, so please call now to reserve your table for a gourmet dinner as well as a rare blast from the past...old fashioned and elegant dining in an authentic railroad car!  For reservations, contact Carolyn  Williams, 276-669-6506, or Roxanne Coulthard, 276-466-5357.


Join the Campaign to Save the Preston House
view brochure

The Bristol Historical Association's May Meeting:

The Story of Saltville

Over 100 people attended the General Meeting of the Bristol Historical Association on May 11th at the Bristol Public Library to hear Harry Haynes, manager of the Museum of the Middle Appalachians present the story of Saltville, Virginia.  From prehistoric times to the present, salt from the Saltville Valley has been in demand by man and beast. Saltville also played an important and strategic role in the Civil War, World War I,  and World War II.

Harry Haynes is a local historian and life long resident of Saltville and Washington County, Virginia.  He is also the cousin of our own  Joyce Kistner!  The history of Saltville and its importance to our country was of great interest to those attending, and the audience enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions of Mr. Haynes and speak with him following the lecture. Samples of Saltville salt were given  out, and Mr. Haynes encouraged everyone to look for Saltville salt in a variety of area products.

Many thanks to Harry Haynes as well as to Tim Buchanan, our BHA program chairman, for another very educating and entertaining evening!

For more information about the Museum of the Middle Appalachians and Saltville, please visit

Moore's Potato Chip Company Is Topic Of Historical Meeting

April 14, 2009

Over 100 people attended Monday's Bristol Historical Association meeting to hear Jack Arnold present the history of Moore's Potato Chip Company.  Association members, friends, Moore's Potato Chip employees, and interested Bristol families filled the banquet hall at State Street United Methodist Church.  What an amazing story Jack told of his family's 65 years of chip production which began in his home and went on to become Virginia's largest chipping company and the fourth largest privately owned snack food company in the United States!
Thank you, Jack Arnold, for what you and your family did for all of Bristol!
Here are a few pictures of the evening...


Sponsorships Available For Star-Spangled Saturday
Organizers of Bristol'spatriotic celebrationhave announced plans for this year's Star-Spangled Saturday scheduled for July 4th.Celebrate Bristol, which was organized in 2008, will once againput togetherBristol's patriotic celebration that includes thetraditional Independence parade in downtown Bristol,food and concerts at Cumberland Square Park andfireworks on theVolunteerParkwayaround Bristol Motor Speedway.This year they are also joining with the Bristol Trainstation Foundationfor the grand opening&ribbon cutting of the Bristol Railway Station.This year will highlight the completion of 10 years of work on the 107 year-old centerpiece of downtown Bristol.At a cost of 5million dollars, the nonprofit Bristol Trainstation Foundation has meticulously restored the former Union Depotto its former glory.It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and only one of a few remaining examples of twentieth-century American eclecticism and Romanesque architecture on the Norfolk&Southern line.It is the last passenger station left from the identical style and time period. Celebrate Bristolcontinues to work on new additions to this years' event, includinga sanctioned Antique Automobile Association Car Showand expanded children's eventsin downtown Bristol.
"The response from Bristol residentsto last year's events have been phenomenal", according to Tim Buchanan, chairman of Celebrate Bristol.As they are gearing up for an even more exciting celebration in 2009 they have announced that the community has the opportunity to be involved in this year's events.A variety ofsponsorships are available for businessesandcivic groups that want to join in the city-wide celebration.A sponsor packet is available by contacting Trish Terry, the Celebrate Bristol sponsorship chairman, at 276-466-2422.Also, the entire community is welcome to enter a float in the Independence parade the morning of July 4th.A call for entries will be announced at a later date, but it's not too early to make plans for a float for your church, business, civic group or neighborhood.For parade details, contact Richard Ball, parade chairman, at 276-466-4009.

ETSU at Bristol Schedules Class On Bristol History
We've received early notification that ETSU at Bristol has scheduled a class on Bristol history for the summer term.Gary Rose, who is a Bristol native and media specialist at ETSU, is known for his work on Bristol history.He has been the chairman of the East Hill Cemetery Association board of directors, where he has been instrumental in documenting the census of burials, including the history of the Confederate section of the cemetery.Though his research continues, Mr. Rose has given historians and genealogists an invaluable tool when he published a 382-page softbound history of the cemetery in 2004.He again has scheduled a 3,000 credit class entitled "Hist 4037-05 Bristol TN-VA 1856-1935"set forJuly 14th - August 13th, 2009.Classes are to be held on Tuesdays&Thursdays 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm and Saturdays will be dedicatedto field trips from10:00 am to 2:00 pm.Typically, there are lectures from notable Bristol area historians, including Bud Phillips, who has authored numerous histories of the city. For details contact Mr. Rose at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City at (423) 439-7058.

The 150th of the Civil WarToTake Center Stage In Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia has taken the lead by becoming the first state to create a Sesquicentennial Commission to formally begin planning for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.The commemoration of this event holds tremendous educational, economic and tourism opportunities throughout the Commonwealth.Not only was Virginia the central focus of the Civil War in the 1960's, but it is still the center, in terms of what visitors can see and experience today.Joining in the commemoration, each locality has been asked to form a sesquicentennial committee to work with the state commission in planning for the four-year commemorative period.The City of Bristol Virginia has joined in the call and has assembled a committee that will plan events to commemorate the most significant series of events in the history of the Commonwealth and the nation.Local, regional&events of national interest will be announced in the upcoming months.The State chairman of theSesquicentennial Commission is Speaker William J. Howell and the Vice Chairman is Senator John H. Chickester.Visit the official website;

The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission will host the nation's first major event commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War at the University of Richmond on April 29, 2009.Dr. Edward L. Ayers, President of the University of Richmond and noted Civil War historian, is chairing the conference, entitled "America on the Eve of the Civil War."Following a format that is more akin toMeet the Pressthan a typical conference format, this innovative program promises to set a tone of inclusion and innovation in our country's upcoming conversations about the Civil War.
The conference will feature an outstanding array of panelists who will participate in four unscripted conversations that view events from the perspective of 1859, as they were occurring:Taking Stock of the Nation in 1859, The Future of Virginia and the South, Making Sense of John Brown's Raid, and Predictions for the Election of 1860.The presenters are Jean Baker (Goucher), David Blight (Yale), Christy Coleman (American Civil War Center), Daniel Crofts (College of New Jersey), Charles Dew (Williams), Eric Foner (Columbia), Gary Gallagher (UVA), Walter Johnson (Harvard), Robert Kenzer (University of Richmond), Gregg Kimball (Library of Virginia), Nelson Lankford (Virginia Historical Society), Lauranett Lee (Virginia Historical Society), David Reynolds (City University of New York), Manisha Sinha (University of Massachusetts-Amherst), Elizabeth Varon (Temple), Clarence Walker (University of California Davis), and Joan Waugh (UCLA).
There are currently over 1,400 registered from every corner of Virginia and across the United States, and registrations are still being accepted.To register, visit the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission's website:http://www.virginiacivilwar.orgor call (804) 786-3591.

Bristol, A Look Back . . .
In 1909, Bristol Was Building & The Public Library Established
by Tim Buchanan

1909 was a banner year for both Bristol's.  It could be claimed that 100 years ago the city fathers and business entrepreneurs laid the foundation for the modern city of Bristol.  As reported in an earlier issue, the modern road system dates to 1909.  Macadamized streets in both cities were laid with newly purchased steam rollers, beginning in the spring of the year.  Main Street was graded from East Hill Cemetery to the furthest point on West Main Street near the current Commonwealth Avenue to allow for water drainage and new sidewalks replaced wooden ones in the downtown portion of the city.  It would soon be a distant memory when sinkholes, standing water or impassible thoroughfares would slow wagon or trolley traffic.

Bristol took a new step forward with the completion of the Bristol Young Men's Christian Association building, the YMCA, on the corner of Shelby & Fifth Streets in 1909.  It was to replace a much smaller building on Fifth Street built in 1888, which was the first Association facility in Tennessee.  The laying of the cornerstone was held October 18, 1906 on a lot that was given to the organization by Anson King, owner of King Brothers Shoe Company.  Major A.D. Reynolds, of the Reynolds Tobacco fame, and Mrs. John I. Cox, the First Lady of Tennessee, gave the dedicatory and historical remarks for the event.  At a cost of $60,000 the magnificent four-story building was dedicated on January 23, 1909 with remarks from Tennessee Governor A.J. Montegue.  The new building contained two bowling alleys, a gymnasium, an indoor swimming pool, a game room, a large recreation area, an auditorium and 32 dormitories.  In those years many large YMCA's served as a lodging for people that traveled to the city.  When completed, the YMCA on Shelby & Fifths Streets contained the only gymnasium and auditorium in either city.  All basketball games in the city were played there and it soon became the recreation Mecca as well as a place dedicated to bible study and to further Christian maturity in the community.  Mr. V. T. Grizzard served as the General Secretary/Director of the Bristol YMCA, replaced in June of the same year by G.E. Lundy of Chattanooga. Today the building continues to add eloquence to Shelby Street and has been beautifully renovated into an office complex, named Shelby Square.

Other notable construction projects were completed in 1909.  The new Burson Building, on the corner of Main and Moore Streets, was completed by E.A. Burson and leased to Gola Thomas of Bluff City as Hotel Burson. The hotel opened in the summer of the year. This same building, years later, housed the Washington Trust and Dominion Banks.  In the mid-1970's, as Bristol was dealing with urban decline, this building was replaced with a modern building with a second story parking garage.  This corner remains a banking landmark as the regional office for Wachovia Bank.  Another upscale Bristol hotel, the St Lawrence Hotel on Front Street, completed a $30,000 annex facing Cumberland Street.  The three-story brick addition facing Cumberland Street contained 45 "state-of-the-art" hotel rooms, the majority with private baths, and greatly added to the posh accommodations of the establishment.  They were located across from the Union Train Station and was the first visible hotel in view from unloading trains.  It should be noted that the competition was fierce between competing hotels.  They all had attendants at the station barking out their amenities to potential customers, such as "Closest to the Union Station", "Private baths at the St Lawrence", etc.  It became so contentious and loud at the dock that, for a time, the attendants were restricted from the station grounds. The St Lawrence Hotel had a formal dining room that offered some of Bristol's finest meals, including numerous varieties of fresh fish. 

Another prominent building that dates a century is the Peavler Building on the corner of 6th and Shelby Streets.  This three-story office building was constructed under the supervision of owner Colonel J.M. Barker and originally housed three businesses on the first floor and modern office spaces on the upper levels.  Yet, another office building was finished in 1909 by the Virginia & Southwestern Railway Company at the corner of Front & Scott Streets in Bristol Virginia. Their general offices were located in the Burson Building, later the Phipps Building on Fifth Streets, but there was not enough space for all the company offices.  The new frame building completed in July was occupied by the train master, road master, train dispatcher and their crew.  It was located next to the tracks, within view of the junction with the Norfolk & Western rails and rail yard. Among the most visible buildings ever constructed in the city was the Bristol Virginia City Hall on Cumberland Street.  Prior to Urban Renewal in the 1960's this was one of Bristol's most beautiful structures.  It was a columned building that was crowned with a classic tower sitting 70 foot above the ground level.  It was completed in 1909 at a cost of $65,000.  More will be dedicated to the building in a later issue.   There were numerous other groundbreakings and construction projects in the year, some buildings that remain to this day.

The Bristol Public Library formally began operations one century ago.  The Bristol Library Association began as the inspiration of the 1900 Club, which was the first women's study club in Bristol.  This literary initiative began in November 1899.  The organization established the cities' first library in the Phipps Building on Sixth Street in Bristol Tennessee.  It was officially dedicated on Wednesday, April 14, 1909 and the officers installed that day included Judge D.J. St John, president; W.B. Gillespie, treasurer; and Frank M. Davis, secretary.  Members of the board were composed of H.G. Peters, Albert Parlett, A.P. Pepper, Dr. J.T. Henderson, John W. Price & Joseph L. Kelly, all community leaders.  Initial visiting hours were set for every Tuesday and Saturday afternoon from 3pm to 6pm. By June the library and association office were moved to the second floor of the King Building on Sixth Street.  The intense interest in the new library necessitated more space and better lighting than originally anticipated, according to library organizers.  An appeal for books and operating funds were brought to the attention of the public with an overwhelming response.  During the first ten years of operations the library had collected over 3,500 volumes and primary expenses were met by donations, many of which came from the 1900 Club and other women's organizations.  In later years the library was located in the YMCA and boasted 229 card-carrying members of the Library Club. 

Though a public library in name it was not a "public library" as we know it today.  In the early 1920's these same women's organizations formed the Library Committee of the City Federation of Women's Clubs in an effort for a permanent location, which became a reality on August 3, 1929.  Both city governments paid $10,000 each for the Elks property on Anderson Street with a commitment of $100.00 per month for maintenance divided evenly by both governments. This was the first time in the history of the Twin Cities that property was co-owned between both cities.  This indeed was another giant step in the development of Bristol and the initial foundation toward the state-of-the-art library citizens of Bristol enjoy today.

Bristol's Wilhelmina Banks
Presents Stories On Local Rail History

Bristol Virginia - The Bristol Historical Association is pleased to announce that Wilhelmina Banks, noted local writer and storyteller, will be the guest speaker of the association on Monday February 9, 2009This meeting will be held at the Bristol Public Library in the Conference Room at 6:30pm.  She, through her storytelling expertise, will present a program entitled All Aboard, A Local Rail History.  Banks will pull from her knowledge of general Bristol history and interweave stories related to the cities' black community.

Wilhelmina Banks

A native of the Twin-Cities Wilhelmina Banks has lived her life experiencing and learning from history.   Following her graduation from Douglas High School at age 16, she graduated from Morristown Normal & Industrial Junior College where she received an associates degree, and having her first teaching assignment in Morristown College's one room school house.  She migrated to Brooklyn, New York where she resided for forty-four years, while traveling extensively throughout East and West Africa.  She spent five years in Tanzania, East Africa and other extensive trips to Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and other memorable and historic countries.  She continued her education at Brooklyn College, receiving a Masters in Education, Guidance and Counseling.  In Tanzania she was the first full-time female instructor in the National Banks of Commerce Training College of Dar es Salaam and later designed a new and unique concept of Museumtherapy.  It was based on the recognition of cultural heritage and using artifacts to promote a positive multi-cultural awareness.

Ms. Banks, with her now deceased husband Gilbert H. Banks, eventually did want to return to her roots to spread her experiences to the Bristol community.  In 1996 she opened the NYUMBA YA TAUSI-PEACOCK MUSEUM, the first museum in the Twin Cities.  The museum consists of over 6,000 pieces of African and African-American art, Banks' family artifacts and memorabilia from enslavement and Bristol's black community.  She explains that the odd sounding name of the Museum, Peacock Museum in English, is in Key Swahili, the language of the people of Swahili.  The private museum, of which she remains director and curator, is open on Saturdays and available weekdays by appointment.  It is located at 412 Clinton Street in Bristol Virginia, several blocks from Reynolds Memorial United Methodist Church.  She can be contacted at 276-669-4596 for details and for appointments.
Though the black community in Bristol is much smaller in the Twenty-first Century, Banks is no less determined to tell the stories of African-American history and of Bristol's black heritage.  This presentation to the Bristol Historical Association is a rare opportunity to look at Bristol history from a different vantage point.  She further explains that it was also the black community that made Bristol the community that it has become.  A true and honest perspective of local history!

This meeting is free to the public.  For further details on this upcoming event contact program chairman Tim Buchanan, 276-669-3885.  Isabelle Ladd  currently serves as the president of the Bristol Historical Association.


I have well learned the value of historical markers. During my first year here I lived in a rather busy and noisy place. Thus when it came time to study my foreign language lesson I often went to East Hill Cemetery, and took a seat on the curb around the Joseph R. Anderson lot. But it was years before I learned that he was the founder of the Original Town of Bristol. There was no information to that effect on his tomb stone nor was there any special marker erected there to so inform passers by of this historical fact.

Bristol Birthplace Marker

Later I learned that the beginning point of the town which Anderson founded was on the lot where now we dedicate this beautiful state approved marker. I have long lived for the day when this we are doing would be done. For twenty years I have diligently sought to have this made a reality. There are two principal reasons why I have so done.

First, fifty-five years ago when I had no home or certain dwelling place I wandered into this little valley of the Beaver Creek, and found here a pleasant and prosperous city; a border city inhabited by a unique people. And I was soon to learn that it had a unique past. I found here much more than a city. I found here a home- a refuge from a previous very uncertain and insecure life. I found here a peaceful and calm harbor in which I could drop anchor; a place in which to take root; a place to build a stable, meaningful, worthwhile, and hopefully successful future. I also found here a good, kind, and very helpful people; a people who would accept me, and among I could have faithful friends. I arrived here not knowing anyone in this city, and no one knew me. I very soon had many friends, first a few then more and more, and now they number in the thousands, and these I regard as my greatest wealth. In short I found Bristol to be truly a good place to live. I saw that Bristol sign across State Street that first night I was here. To me then it was a claim. Since then I have learned it to be true, o so very true!

Bud Phillips Group

I adopted Bristol as my home, and her people as my people. I have shared with them and they have shared with me, and I expect this grand situation to be my lot for as long as I may live.

The second reason that I have helped to promote this project is because there was a city here in this valley to which I could come, and someone had to have been its founder. What if it had not have been here; where would I have been today.

One hundred and one years and nineteen days before I arrived here, Joseph R. Anderson, then a merchant in Blountville, Tennessee, sent his surveyors into the fields and meadows that then surrounded the area where we now stand to begin the survey of the Town of Bristol. Then one hundred years to the month of my arrival here his combined home and business house was being erected upon this lot, and would very soon be occupied. In early November that year the post office would be established here. Then on December 24, 1853 the first Bristol store was opened in Anderson's new building. The next day the first Bristol church services were conducted in the same building. And banking began there in early 1854.  The Town of Bristol was well on her way to becoming the city she is now. I think that without a doubt it can be said that here is indeed the birth place of Bristol. Trace your records as you may, you will always find that eventually they will lead back to this point. I am here speaking of the deliberately planned and founded Town of Bristol-not of pre-Bristol history.

The land upon which the Town of Bristol was founded lay in two states, being almost equally divided by the state line. Thus the original Bristol, Virginia reached to Beaver Creek on the North. Beyond that creek was another planned development known as Goodsonville. When time came for incorporation that part of the original Bristol could not be incorporated in Tennessee. It was then that a group of residents of that part of Bristol put both developments together and formed the composite Town of Goodson.  This situation existed until 1890 when all the Virginia side became Bristol.

So the gratitude that I have for a city having been founded here that I could make my home has kept me working so so long to have this point of beginning memorialized. A for reasons here named, and hundreds of others, I am glad, so very glad, that it has been done.

The latest Bristol Historical Association newsletter is below...



BHA Newsletter October 2013

BHA Newsletter October 2012

BHA Newsletter May 2012

BHA Newsletter March 2012

BHA Program March 12th 2012

BHA Newsletter December 2011

Christmas Luncheon 2011

Monument Dedication & Lecture on the Bat Creek Stone

BHA Newsletter October 2011

October 2011 Announcement

BHA Newsletter September 2011

Invitation from William King Museum in Abingdon

BHA July Newsletter

Star Spangled weekend


Past Newsletters

September Newsleter
September 2011

August 2010

December Newsletter

September Newsletter

March Newsletter

December Newsletter

September 2007


Past News Items

Historical Association To Host Bicentennial Of Andrew Johnson’s Birth

Bristol - The Bristol Historical Association, in recognition of the 200th
birthday of President Andrew Johnson, will be having a special event
reflecting on the personal & political life of America’s seventeenth
President.  The bicentennial event will be presented by Dr. Robert Orr and
Carlos C. Whaley of the Andrew Johnson Bicentennial Celebration Steering
Committee.  Citizens of the Bristol area will have the opportunity to join
in the region’s commemoration on Monday May 12th at the Bristol Public
Library at 6:30pm.

President Andrew Johnson, born in Raleigh North Carolina in 1808,
apprenticed to a local tailor as a boy before opening a tailor shop in
Greeneville Tennessee in 1826.  He married a local girl, Eliz McCardle, the
following year and soon entered community politics as a stump speaker,
alderman and mayor.  He served as a member of the Tennessee House of
Representatives and Senate before serving as two term Governor of Tennessee.
He was thrust on the national scene as a U.S. Senator and remained loyal to
the Union at the outbreak of the Civil War.  He was appointed as the
military governor of Tennessee and elected Vice President of the United
States in 1864, succeeding President Abraham Lincoln following his
assassination.  Many firsts occurred during Johnson’s term, including the
purchase of Alaska from Russia and impeachment by the House of

This special bicentennial event will include a PowerPoint presentation on
Johnson’s political career by Carlos Whaley and a lecture presentation by
Dr. Orr dealing with the radical Republican Congress and Southern
Reconstruction.  Both men are accomplished writers and lecturers on the life
of Johnson and will broaden our appreciation of one of America’s most
controversial presidents and the region’s most outstanding historical

For further details on this upcoming event contact program chairman Tim
Buchanan, 276-669-3885.  This event is open to the public, free of charge
with no RSVP necessary.  Also, you can visit the association's website to find out about the extensive
work of the association preserving & promoting the region’s heritage.
With three historic properties in the city, the Bristol Historical
Association is working toward a regional museum in the historic E.W.
King House on Anderson Street and restoration and maintenance of the
Tennessee Ernie Ford birthplace.  Current efforts also are securing
a permanent site for the eighteenth century Robert Preston House, located
on Lee Highway near Exit 7.  Isabelle Ladd  currently serves as the
president of the Bristol Historical Association.

Thanks to Tim Coulthard for sponsoring our web site... more...

Rev. Rufus Washington Taylor - A Noted Black Man of Early Bristol
Rufus Taylor
Many early Bristol pioneers did much for this fast developing border town, then faded back into obscurity, and are seldom heard of today. Such it was with Rev. Rufus Washington Taylor. His date and place of birth are not definitely known. However, there is some indication that he was born around 1810, possibly in or near Fredericksburg , Virginia. His father had once been a slave of George Washington.

Rev. Taylor came to Bristol around 1875. A little later he began Methodist services in a little
one room school house that stood near the end of Alabama Street in Bristol, Tennessee. But he did more than preach. He also taught a school for black children who lived in the area.. Those who studied under him said that he was a kind, gentle, patient, and very wise teacher. Many were greatly benefitted by his services. From among his students came a black lawyer, a doctor, and three school teachers. Also from his work in the ministry came what we now know as the Hood Memorial Methodist Church of Bristol, Tennessee.

In November, 1953, it was my privilege to talk with a very old black woman who well
remembered Rev. Taylor. Indeed, she had been one of his students in what she called the “old King Field School.” She told that this beloved black minister and teacher also practiced a form of herbal medicine, often treating blacks of Bristol who could not afford regular doctors. She believed he had saved her life one time when she had diphtheria. She also recalled that he never owned a horse but walked anywhere that he needed to go.

Rev. Taylor made his mark here and seems to have passed on; to where, I do not know. The lady mentioned above thought he finally settled in eastern Arkansas. But wherever he may have gone, his works still follow him here.

By Bud Phillips

This story appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier last September...Historic Open House




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