Martha Bachman McCoy had a lot to live up to. Her Grandfather, Jonathan Waverly Bachman, the revered pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, ministered to all classes, creeds and colors during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878. Her father, Nathan Lynn Bachman, a US Senator 1933-1937 supported President Franklin Roosevelt in bringing economic recovery and the TVA to Tennessee. Her mother Evalina Duke Bachman was an active civic leader.
Martha had her own sense of duty. A graduate of the Girls Preparatory School and Sweetbriar College, she married Thomas McCoy, an attorney from Asheville, NC, and lived there for several years. The couple later returned with daughter Sally (McCoy Garland) to live in the family home on Walden’s Ridge. She served on the boards of Little Miss Mag Day Nursery, Girls Preparatory School, Red Cross, and Family Service Agency; volunteered at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute; and was a member of First Presbyterian Church, the DAR and Colonial Dames of America.
Historian and publisher Karen Stone wrote in “Walden’s Ridge: The Early Years” that “Martha Bachman spent her teen years riding her horse over the family farm and through the woodlands. She loved the wild mountain dearly. Martha elaborated, ‘In the early days, Walden’s Ridge was far from being a social center. As a matter of fact, it was downright disreputable – wild and free. Prohibition… moonshining brought great prosperity, and all the ex-miners rode around in Stutz Bearcats.’”
“[She] was throughout her long life a champion of the Ridge and its people. She was well known for her historical sketches and talks in which her continuing theme was the community spirit and fellowship of all the inhabitants of Walden’s Ridge, irrespective of city, town, or country residence.” She kept her barn filled with horses. She fed foxes on one side of the house and raccoons on the other side to keep them from fighting.
Her historical commentary began with Cherokees hunting game on the mountain followed by pioneers moving in and Anderson Pike being built in the 1840’s. She described how the Federals in October 1863 used the Pike at her front gate to transport desperately needed supplies from their Bridgeport Alabama depot to General William Rosecrans’ soldiers and animals in Chattanooga. She recounted Confederate General Joe Wheeler’s devastating raid on the Union wagon train.
Martha related how the colony of Summertown began when the Key, Smartt, Sharp, Bates and other families discovered the charms of the mountain when refuging from the cholera epidemic of 1873 and the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. “The early summer residents were a gentle group, religious and nature loving; and greatly entertained by the quaint doings of the mountaineers. As the mountaineers were as equally entertained by the quaint doings of the city slickers, a cordial state of affairs was set up which persists to this day,” Martha reminded the Garden Club of Signal Mountain in the summer of 1948.
In historic preservation Martha made her lasting mark. When the Town of Walden was incorporated in 1975, it had no funds, and Martha sent a donation. Mayor Elizabeth Akins told Karen Stone, “She [Martha] was always interested in town affairs. When we decided to build a town hall, we wanted to buy part of the McCoy property, but she refused, saying, ‘You can’t afford it.’”
Two decades later the Town gathered its resources and purchased from Martha the five-acre Emma Bell Miles homeplace. Then she willed to Walden the McCoy homeplace and its five acres with an option to buy the remainder of the property. She specified that the property should used for an arboretum, a public park, or passive recreation. Martha died in 2004, shortly before her 100th birthday.
The Town of Walden now owns Martha’s entire 38 acres, which includes an arboretum, apple orchard, wild flowers, woodland, and Shoal Creek headwaters as well as main house, carriage house, smoke house, horse ring parking areas, pavilion, barn, corn crib, equipment shed, gardens (children’s sensory, horseshoe, sensory and boxwood), propagation beds, and dog park. A 501c3, the McCoy Farm and Gardens, leases the property from the Town and sponsors a range of activities including a Christmas Tree Lighting, an Easter Egg Roll, a Memorial Day picnic, and nature walks as well as weddings and other private events. Docents conduct tours of the main house each month on Sunday afternoons. Runners, strollers, dog lovers and families enjoy the grounds daily.