A Look Back at Palmersville, Tennessee

by

Nelda Rachels

 

(Formerly written for Hometown magazine, this article was last updated in July of 2006)

 

     It is difficult to imagine that the main business area of Palmersville once ran in the other direction-up and down Hwy 190 and not Hwy 89 as it does today.  It is equally difficult to picture the old boardwalk that led villagers from store to store or down to the bank to get that much needed shopping money.  I try to imagine the hollow thud and constant creaking of the boards underfoot, the horses whinnying at hitching posts, the banging of a screen door.  Most difficult of all is to imagine this community as a raw, almost frontier settlement, begun by farmer and merchant Smith Palmer.  Instead, I see what is now visible from the intersection of 190 and 89: Station House Restaurant, Larry's Service Station, Perry's Feed Mill, The Weakley County Bank (closed and now housing the Palmersville Historical Society and Museum), The Palmersville Market (now closed), the fire department, the boarded-up Palmersville School, and the Baptist Chruch and the Church of Christ.

     In the old Hwy 190-N section of town, the only old structure left from before the 1930s is the derelict red brick building which was once the bank.  According to the January 3, 1939 Dresden Enterprise, $20,000 of Palmersville Bank assets were sold.  Another bank did not come into existence until 1976.  Earlier, in 1924, a fire had destroyed most of the buildings except the bank and three others.  Businesses began moving to the main highway after this.  About ten years later, the town was once again nearly destroyed by fire.

     In the first half of the 20th century, the town had a cheese factory, flour and sawmills, drug store, bank, switchboard, merchandise stores, blacksmith shop, post office, and several churches.  One of the oldest structures left in the community is the two-story (former) Primitive Baptist Chruch visible from Hwy 190N, going towards Paris.  This building was built in the 1910s and is a massive, square-looking structure adjacent to a cemetery.  It is now mainly used as a meeting place for the Masonic Lodge.

     Several schools have come and gone over the last century or so.,  Among the most renowned was the Minida Normal College built about 1890.  The building combined educational opportunities from the elementary level to the B. S. and B. A. degrees.  The school would board students; in addition, the college conducted classes on the upper floor.  A student seeking a degree paid from $ 8.25 to 10.00 per ten-week term, or the school would accept barter.

     After closing down in 1912, another two-room school was built which had its first graduating class in 1924 in the recently built (1920) larger wooden structure.  This is the site of the recently closed Palmersville School.  In 1981 a new brick building greeted students, my daughter included, who started kindergarten that year.  Palmersville High School students began attending at Dresden in 1998.  In fact, my youngest son was in the last Palmersville graduating class of nine students in 1997.  The Palmersville elementary and junior high students followed a few short years later.  Now, the school is boarded up.

     In closing, I would like to recount an event from the past which punctuates the camaraderie of a small community like Palmersville,  as reported by Louella Tyson in the March 3, 1939, edition of the Dresden Enterprise and Sharon Tribune.  Mrs Jennie Capps invited 24 women, 9 children, and a bevy of children into her home, where the women quilted 3 quilts, managed to get them all hemmed, and then bragged that they could have done more.  They ate a dinner of ham, chicken, pie, salad, and cake.  One person reported that she "quilted hard and ate much harder, but Newton Show and Lorene McWheertere ate lots I did not partake of."  Somehow, this scenario is easy to imagine.

Author's Note: Many facts were gleaned from and thanks must go to Virginia Vaughan foir her Tennessee County History Series: Weakley County, and the Weakley County Bank and Editor Mary Elizabeth Freeman for their Weakley County Bank Since 1887.  Thanks also, to the bank for allowing us to use the photos for their book.

 

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