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History of Anderson Pike and the W Road: Wheeler’s Raid, Union Supply Wagons, Grant’s Trek, Cholera and Yellow Fever, Summertown, Little Brown Church, Bootleggers, and Other Stories

by Frank “Mickey” Robbins

Anderson Pike and the “W” Road have a rich and colorful history. It began centuries ago when American Indians roamed the Tennessee Valley and hunted deer, turkey, bear, and grouse on Walden’s Ridge. Tribes eventually settled in villages at Moccasin Bend, Williams Island, and Citico and used a system of trails branching to the ridge including one up a natural pass at Roger’s Gap, which later became the “W” Road. 

After the Cherokee Removal with its Trail of Tears, white settlers began to stream into Ross’s Landing. To serve this new market and reach the Western Atlantic railhead, prosperous farmers in Sequatchie Valley sought a direct route to transport their produce and livestock. (l) On January 23, 1840, the Tennessee Legislature authorized construction of a turnpike road, which was to begin at Josiah Anderson’s farm in the Chapel Hill community in Sequatchie Valley, cross Walden’s Ridge at Double Bridges in the Horseshoe, continue at the higher elevation for several miles, and descend at Roger’s Gap before ending “at a point on the north bank of the Tennessee River, opposite, or nearly so to the town of Chattanooga.” That project was left incomplete, and in 1848, the Tennessee Legislature authorized a second turnpike road over the same route “sixteen feet wide: to be clear of stumps, rocks, and other obstructions.” Josiah Anderson’s power as Speaker of the Tennessee Senate no doubt helped in having the road begin at the rear of his farm and named Anderson Pike. By 1852 the new road was open and operating. Two years later, Josiah Anderson and John Foust sold their rights to James C. Conner, Hamilton County Sheriff and son-in-law of Elisha Rogers, a large land holder who owned the Roger’s Gap Road. (2) To oversee the turnpike Conner built a two-story log cabin, which served as toll house and home, at the intersection of Fairmount Road and Anderson Pike. During the Civil War, he had sons who served on both the Confederate and Union sides. In 1864, Federal scouts came looking for Conner himself as most men were forced to join the Federal Army. He had served in the legislature and was officially exempt from service. Objecting to warfare, he eluded Federals for a few months but was later taken prisoner of war and held at the Ryder Home on Pine Street in Chattanooga until the end of the war. (3) 

(After serving as speaker of both the House and Senate for the State of Tennessee, Josiah Anderson was elected as a Whig to the US House of Representatives, where he served a two-year term 1849-1851. He was twice defeated in reelection attempts. In early l861 he was chosen as a delegate to the Peace Convention of Washington, which tried unsuccessfully to settle North-South differences and prevent the impending war. He subsequently became a Colonel in the Tennessee State Militia. On November 5, he was shot while giving a pro-secession speech to a group of citizens on the militia parade ground at Looney’s creek (Hicks Chapel, near present day Whitwell). He was taken to his home in Sequatchie Valley at the foot of Anderson Pike, where he died three days later with burial in the family cemetery. At death Col. Joe Anderson owned 40,000 acres of land including 1000 acres at Fur Top on the ridge, 14 slaves, numerous blooded horses and hunting dogs, and a library of English classics and law books.) (4) 

In 1863, Anderson Pike and Rogers Gap Road played a brief but important role in the Siege of Chattanooga. After suffering a major defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19-20, the Union’s Amy of the Cumberland retreated into Chattanooga. Confederate, General Braxton Bragg laid siege to block supply routes in and out of the city and starve the Union troops into submission. The daily ration was reduced to “four crackers, each only three inches square and just three times the thickness of a normal soda cracker.” (5) On occasion, men were issued “a bit of salt pork,” which usually was rancid. They called their few small pieces of beef “dried on the hoof.” (6) 


To overcome the siege and near starvation, Union General William Rosecrans studied several routes to bring supplies and reinforcements to Chattanooga. Each started at the Federal Supply Depot in Bridgeport, Alabama, 30 miles downstream on the Tennessee River. (7) But the direct routes from Bridgeport to Chattanooga, whether by rail, river, or road, were blocked by Confederate artillerists, sharpshooters, and pickets, who occupied Lookout Mountain, patrolled Lookout Valley, and were strategically strung across Raccoon Mountain. The only route from Bridgeport to Chattanooga that the Rebels did not control (and parts of it were subject to enemy cavalry raids) was a 60-mile wagon road, which ran northward to Jasper and up the Sequatchie Valley before turning southeast to climb Walden’s Ridge following Anderson Pike and the Rogers Gap Road for the final 20 miles into Chattanooga. (8) Rosecrans chose the latter, and ammunition, medical supplies, rations, and forage began to move over this arduous route.  


Conditions, which were already miserable due to the length and difficulty of the journey, worsened as nature turned against the Union. On October 1, the first rain fell in the area since mid-August. For the next 30 days it rained almost daily, and the storms reached near hurricane proportions. Horses and mules floundered in the mud as they struggled to bring their loads along. In addition to dealing with weak and rebellious animals and the misery of going for days without dry clothes, the Union troops had to face the threat of raiding cavalry parties. This came to a flash point on October 3, when General Jos Wheeler led his Confederate cavalry south from its camp at Henson’s Gap near Dunlap to overtake 32 Union supply wagons. An hour later he caught the mother lode at the foot of Andersons Gap — an enormous train of Federal wagons of over 800 wagons. The front of the train reached near the crest of Walden’s Ridge, and the rear extended five miles back down the Sequatchie Valley. (9) “As the first whooping and hollering Confederate troops descended on the train, teamsters panicked. Supply wagons slid off the road and tumbled down the ridge. Ammunition wagons on the summit exploded with a deafening roar that echoed across the valley. The entire train stalled. Rebel horsemen herded the teamsters, soldiers, and their meager guard of infantry into groups, and then went about rummaging. It had all been too easy, and the mood of the Rebels turned festive. They plundered whiskey from sutlers’ wagons (private commissaries), cast off their own ragged clothing for new Yankee shoes and trousers, and even held up Union officers for booty. Confederate officers did little to restore discipline, their only order of consequence being to ‘kill the mules and burn the wagons.’ Out came the torches. Carbines cracked and mules shrieked. The stench of animal blood mingled with the smoke of nearly four hundred burning wagons. After eight hours of gleeful plundering Wheeler and his men rode off toward McMinnville, easily outdistancing the Federal cavalry sent to intercept them.” (10) One Confederate soldier wrote, “The destruction of the ordnance trains presented a fearful spectacle. The noise of bursting shells and boxes of ammunition so resembled the sound of battle as to astonish and alarm the enemy troops in Chattanooga, who were in doubt as to the cause until the ascending clouds of smoke told them the food and ammunition upon which almost the vitality of their army depended were destroyed,” (11) Rosecrans’s biographer wrote that Wheeler’s raid was the “funeral pyre of Rosecrans in top command.” (12) President Abraham Lincoln told his Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana that ever since Chickamauga, Rosecrans had been acting “confused and stunned, like a duck hit on the head.” (13)

wheelers roadWith the conditions in Chattanooga deteriorating, Assistant Secretary of War Dana telegraphed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that Union General Rosecrans was on the verge of pulling up stakes and retreating. (14) Stanton called for General Ulysses Grant to take command. President Lincoln placed virtually all Union armies in the Western front under Grant and replaced General Rosecrans with General George Thomas instructing “that he must hold Chattanooga at all hazards.” Grant spent the night of October 21 in Bridgeport. The next morning, with his small party Grant set forth on horseback for Chattanooga over roads up Sequatchie Valley and over Walden’s Ridge that according to his memoirs “were almost impassable from mud, knee deep in places, and from washouts on the mountain sides.” (15) The general was incapacitated due to a riding accident in New Orleans weeks before and had to be lifted into his saddle “as if he had been a child,” with his crutches strapped beside him, and carried around washouts on the trek up Walden’s Ridge. His aide General John Rawlins called “the mountain road the roughest and steepest of ascent and descent ever crossed by army wagons and mules. The mountain region was unutterably barren offering no food for men or animals.” Mules were desperate for forage, and “it was not unusual sight to see trees as high as animals could reach, barked and eaten as food.”(16) Along the way, the party encountered the wreckage of wagons and the carcasses of thousands of mules. Compounding the bleakness was a steady procession of civilians that passed them along the ridge. Rawlins described “Union families, refugees from their homes…. Mothers with little children in their arms covered with only one thin garment exposed to the beatings of the storm, wet and shivering with cold. I have seen much of human misery consequent of this war, but never before in so distressing a form as this.” (17) 


Union supply wagons that had been using this route since early in the month often had to be lightened — with the brine drained from barrels of salt pork — and half the cargoes of forage and rations thrown away so that some of the supplies could get through. A wagon would go jolting up the mountainside, half pulled and half carried, with sometimes sixteen mules in harness, one man with a whip assigned to each mule, while as many foot soldiers as could find room shoved the wagon box from behind or wrestled with the muddy spokes of the wheels. (18) As many as 50-80 wagons per day made the trip over Walden’s Ridge, but congestion sometimes reduced the number to zero. (Statistically it took 60 fully loaded wagons each day to supply adequate food, ammunition, and quartermaster items for the 40,000 troops besieged in Chattanooga.) The overworked mules that avoided starvation or being shot were exchanged at a rope corral on the James Conner farm near today’s Corral Road, just east of the Sequatchie-Hamilton County line, where General Grant would have passed. (19) 


Grant’s party continued south on Anderson Pike several more miles and then followed it east for the descent at Rogers Gap. They would pass by the McCoy place, then owned by a shoemaker named Edmond. The Federal Army had a large warehouse there for storing provisions. Three weeks before Union engineers had eliminated two-way traffic on the gap road by clearing the Federal, or Military, road up Shoal Creek on the south side of the ridge, that traces some of today’s Highway 127. In order to keep the hundreds of wagons moving across the ridge, Union engineers were constantly widening and rebuilding roadbeds, building causeways over gullies, and cutting new roads. Letters of Union soldiers described a spider web of roads that developed on the ridge by the time Grant came over. (20) Cartter Patten in his Signal Mountain and Walden ‘s Ridge pointed out that the Shoal Creek road was a “steep, crude and makeshift affair, but the empty wagon trains returning to Bridgeport had to use it.” (21) 


The General and his party started down Rogers Gap Road, which had just one steep hairpin curve, or “V”, at the top. Colonel B. F. Scribner of the 38dl Indiana Regiment described this most treacherous part of this precarious segment as “composed of logs, one end of which rests on the side of the mountain, the other end supported in a horizontal position by props, thus forming a sort of corduroy road. At one point near the summit, a stream of water ran down the mountain’s side trough the interstices (small openings) of the logs. It was a rickety, insecure, makeshift of a road.” (22) Several wagon drivers and mules plunged to their death over the side. Historians give different versions of exactly where Grant’s horse fell on his injured leg, but the upper area of the road, or the “V ” section, is a good candidate. Dr. Steve Woodworth wrote in Six Armies in Tennessee that Grant’s horse fell as it “came down the east side of the Ridge,” and stands by that belief today in an email. His footnote referred to ordnance officer General Horace Porter, who wrote that Grant’s “horse had slipped in coming down the mountain.” (23) The surgeon, Edward Kittoe, in a October 24 letter to Julia Grant, the General’s wife, wrote “just as we got into Chattanooga, the General’s horse fell flat on his side.” (24) Jim Ogden, historian at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, believes that Kittoe may have been downplaying the danger of the road and the accident to calm Julia Grant’s worries, and that the fall likely happened at the top on the worst part of the road. Dr. Mike Ballard, Archivist at the Mississippi State University, which holds the Grant papers, is ambivalent as to the exact location of the accident and states in an email that neither Rawlins nor Porter was an eyewitness. Thus, one will never know exactly where his horse fell. It appears to the author that (a) the treacherous condition of the upper corduroy road, (b) slipping “in coming down the mountain,” and (c) the fall “just as we got into Chattanooga,” after the punishing two-day, 60 mile trip from Bridgeport and within virtual eyesight of Chattanooga make the “V” the likely scene of the fall. Since Mathew Brady was not there with his lens, wet plates, and darkroom-and-equipment wagon to capture the moment, one will never know the exact location. It is a fact that General Grant’s fall caused intense pain to his bad leg without compounding the injury. 



That evening October 23, Grant arrived at General George Thomas’ headquarters, the Richardson House in the 300 block of Walnut Street. He had to be lifted from his saddle and was reported “cold, and hungry, and drenched.” (25) Colonel James Wilson, the advance officer on Grant’s staff, came into the room to find Thomas sitting ponderously on one side of the fireplace and Grant on the other side, with his rain-soaked uniform steaming in the warmth of the blaze and a puddle of water under his chair. The Colonel suggested that “perhaps some dry clothes should be found for Grant, and Thomas seemed to come to himself and bestir his staff members for care for Grant’s needs. Most of their offers Grant declined.” (26) 


Concerned with the difficulties of the Anderson Pike/Rogers Gap route and the constricted flow of supplies to Chattanooga, Grant within three days agreed to a surprise attack that led to the seizing of Brown’s Ferry on the Tennessee River. The Union then opened the road from Kelly’s  Ferry to Brown’s Ferry, where troops placed a pontoon bridge for traffic crossing Moccasin Bend into Chattanooga. The new supply route created across Lookout Valley, known as the “Cracker Line,” broke the Confederate stranglehold on Chattanooga. The Union abandoned the roads over Walden’s Ridge. (27) 


Life on Walden’s Ridge returned to normal after the war with farmers tending their crops and using Anderson Pile and Roger’s Gap Road to haul their produce to Chattanooga. Families living on the ridge either by foot or horse transported their children to the Fairmont Academy, attended the nearby Methodist and Baptist churches, and made the rounds within the community. (28) 


Normality was interrupted in the 1870s with the outbreak of two epidemics, cholera, and yellow fever, that fell on Chattanooga. Many came to believe that fevers in the lowland were spread by the humid summer heat, and that was close to the truth. (29) Elizabeth Patten in her History of Summertown-Walden’s Ridge relates: “One morning in the summer of 1872, Judge David McKendree Key rushed to his home in Chattanooga. ‘Lizzie,’ he asked, ‘can you and the children be ready to go to the Ridge this afternoon?’ ‘No, Mr. Key. This is Monday and the laundry must go out,’ his wife answered. ‘Two people died of cholera this morning,’ he added. ‘ Have the hack here by 2:00,’ was her reply. They moved that afternoon.” Other families came on horses and buggies up Rogers Gap Road in hopes that the high ground and cooler air of Walden’s Ridge complemented by the chalybeate waters of Mabbitt Springs would protect their families from cholera. It appeared to help. Then in 1878 the yellow fever epidemic started a second exodus from Chattanooga. It was later learned that Walden’s Ridge and Lookout Mountain were indeed safer than the town due to fewer areas of swamp bottom land, where mosquitoes carrying the diseases could breed. The first families escaping the epidemics stayed in hotels that sprang up on the ridge and later established summer residences, especially in the area near and north of the top of Rogers Gap Road, that became known as Summertown. (30) 


The number of Summertown residents and use of the toll road grew. Working men rode down early in the week, stayed in boarding houses or permanent homes, and returned to join their families for the weekend. (31) One of the few daily commuters was Colonel Milton Ochs, managing editor of the Times, who rode back and forth on a thin gray saddle horse named Shafter. “It took John Hartman half a day to drive his ‘bus’ to the ridge. Shafter always made it in two hours.” Hack drivers, Tom C. Conner, James Madison Smith and John Hartman, provided the necessary services. Eventually those using the road tired of paying the toll and sought an improved, more gradual road ascending the mountain. Around 1890 the owners, Tom, Alfred, and Doswell Conner agreed to sell the toll road for $300 to the purchasers, mostly commuters in Summertown. When the deed was signed, the road was opened to the public for free access. (32)  

A 7/19/1892 Chattanooga Times article announced: “A new road up Walden’s Ridge has been surveyed, the county stockade has been built, and it is thought work will commence on it within a fortnight. The road will ascend the mountain at a 6 per cent grade and will be entirely free of corduroys or any dangerous places.” Squire W. T. Walker was foreman of seventeen men from the workhouse, and he was given 335 days to complete the work. The cost would total $11,000. Their major task was the elimination of the steep, treacherous last half mile at the top, which included the corduroy section. (33) The improvements, described in a 5/28/1893 Times article, began with the spectacular blasting of Hanging Rock. “There was an immense crowd of mountain people in holiday attire to witness the joy of Squire’s big ‘Blow Off.’ They began arriving early yesterday morning, coming from many miles. Some were in handsome turnouts; some on horseback; others came in wagons, while a large number walked to the scene…. This huge rock was 45 feet long, 18 ½ feet wide and 8 feet thick, and in order to drill a hole into it for inserting the blast, a scaffold had to be suspended by ropes down the side of the cliff, and Squire W. T. Walker, who had charge of the work, concluded the job was so dangerous, he decided to do it himself.” Following the first blast of Hanging Rock, an even larger boulder reported to be almost as large as Point Lookout had to be toppled. Altogether, there were six blasts of dynamite, “which tore the Hanging Rock from its long resting place, and it fell with a terrible crash 40 feet into the old Roger’s Gap Road, where it was broken in a million fragments. The noise as this great mass goes crashing on in its awful fury is deafening in the extreme, and the excitement of the crowd is now at fever heat, men screaming themselves hoarse, women waving their parasols and children yelling as only children can, and as smoke rises slowly from the valley below three cheers are given jolly squire Dobbs….’Hanging Rock,’ which served as a shelter to hundreds of weary soldiers during the stormy winter nights of 1863-4 was now a thing of the past.” (34) The improvements changed the steep, treacherous quarter mile at the top from the original “V” configuration with one switchback to today’s “W” with three switchbacks. The remaining part of the original road with its steep descent ending near today’s Red Bank Junior High School, was regraded, allowing a more gradual and safer passage over the full 3.3 miles of today’s thoroughfare. 

Usage of the “W” grew. In a 5/17/1978 interview with historian Kay Gaston, hack (buggy) drivers Earl and Arlie Hoodenpyle told of hauling people, many on their round-trip once-a-month visit to town. During their stops, they would leave their mules in Ken Plumlee’s livery stable at Second and Market Street or hitch them to a chain on the telephone pole near the picture show on Market Street. On Saturday’s serial Westerns were their treat. (35) In his Spring Notes from Tennessee, the New England ornithologist Bradford Torrey described his ride to Walden’s Ridge, noting that even though his driver had less formal schooling than Torrey, “it did not take long to discover that in his own line he was a master. He could hit the ear of his mule with the end of his whip with a precision that was almost startling. In fact, it was startling — to the mule. For my own part, as often as he drew back his hand and let fly the lash, my eye was glued to the mule’s right ear in spite of myself. Had my own ears been endowed with life and motion, instead of fastened to my head like blocks of wood, I think they too would have twitched. I wondered how long the man had practiced his art. He appeared to be not more than forty-five years old. Perhaps he came of a race of drivers, and so began life with some hereditary advantages, At all events, he was a specialist, with the specialist’s motto, ‘This one thing I do.”‘ (36) Teamsters also used the “W” to haul loads of tanbark for Scholze Tannery, lumber, and other freight to town, as well as groceries, ice, and baggage to families on the ridge. (37) 


A post office was established in 1893 at the top of the” W” in the Albion View community and grew to include a store and dance pavilion. Sarah Key Patten, daughter of Judge David Key, who lived at “Topside” in Summertown, wrote “Every day around noon we would either drive the 2 ½ miles or ride horseback over to the Top, take a mailbag and get the one we had left the day before with mail in it. Of course, when you went you generally took several families’ bags. It was fun and you saw lots of people over there and generally bought a nickel’s worth of candy or maybe a bottle of soda pop. The dance pavilion became the place where, in the works of Earl Hoodenpyle, ‘everybody went to wear out their shoes on Wednesday and Saturday nights.’ Mountain people walked for miles to attend dances at this and other pavilions on Walden’s Ridge. Summer colonists and people from town also attended, although they were in the minority. ‘Everything came,’ said Arlie Hoodenpyle, ‘and the mixing and mingling that wouldn’t have taken place any other time was handled very beautifully.’ Attending a dance at the ‘W’ pavilion July of 1914 was Emma Bell Miles, wife of Frank Miles and the mother of four children as well as a successful writer and artist. In her diary Emma noted that this was one of the best country dances she had ever attended. She described a rough lumber pavilion lighted with four oil torches and a floor crowded with dancers.” (38) 


In 1908, residents of Summertown established the Union Chapel, or Little Brown Church, for their families to hear God’s word, just a walk or a buggy ride from their summer homes. John Hartman, the hack driver, made his contribution of $3, which put the church in the black by that amount. Early organizers and leaders include members of the Fritts, Sharp, Brown, Bates, Williams, Kropp, Brown, Patten, Davidson, Hunt, Wells, Steffner, Schlesinger, Henson, Thompson, and Kruesi families. Services continue to this day as descendants of the original families and new residents join in singing Beulah Land, In the Garden, Love Lifted Me, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, Church in the Wildwood (accompanied by children ringing the bell), and on the last Sunday of the summer, God Be With You Till We Meet Again. Children collect the offering and lead the Responsive Reading. For many years after World War II “Miss Ellen” Poindexter and John Strang gave uplifting lessons and Colonel Creed Bates, closing prayers. Chattanooga attorney Jac Chambliss in 1988 described to historian Karen Stone the Sunday morning experience: “In a world that is caught up in a sticky tangle of sweeping changes, social, technical, and economic, with all the accompanying stress and bewilderment, this tiny chapel, hidden in the green woodland of one of the oldest settlements on Walden’s Ridge, is a quiet oasis of traditional and unchanging values.” (39) Attendance today frequently reaches 200 without counting dogs and an occasional horse. 

On the Fourth of July 1924, events on Walden’s Ridge were kicked off in traditional holiday fashion. The Chattanooga Times on 7/25/1924 reported: “The Independence Day celebration began at noon, when residents of the Fairmount community and summer visitors gathered on the grounds of the old Fairmount Academy for a barbecue. Ice cream and drinks were sold in booths gaily decorated with flags and red, white, and blue bunting. A program of patriotic and political speeches, songs, and drills was followed by a ball game in the afternoon.” Judge Nathan Bachman spoke and “was heard with interest.” Squire Jesse Brown gave a sketch of the historic Academy. Others there included the Kunz, Shackleford, Cooper, Burke, Brown, Nelson, Adderley, Hauer, and Weatherford families. The Times article noted that summer colonists including the Spencers, Forbes, and Morgans assisted in the arrangements. A second Times article that day followed with “Great Time Had At Summertown” and reported that about 100 people gathered at the Summerfield Key residence, where they ate supper around 5:30 at long tables decorated with summer flowers. A baseball game that afternoon had been the center of interest. Families of the colony of Summertown included the Williams, Poindexters, Kruesis, Thompsons, Bryans, Pryors, Lovells, Campbells, Craigs, Strangs, Watkins, Caldwells, Keys, VanDykes, Campbells, LeNoils, Ochs, Kropps, Averys, Browns, Laceys, Riddles, Bachmans, Steffners, Sharps, Burrs, Harrisons, Carters, Insers, Wests, Hoods, Cookes, Footes, Kierklands, Jeffries, Holzclaws, Troutmans, McCalls, and Smartts. (40) 


Festivities took a different turn that evening, as they moved to Lon Keith’s dance pavilion at the top of the “W.” The Times account noted that several hundred people had gathered at 10:30 pm, when Sam Godsey opened fire on brothers Ike and Hobart Bowman without warning as they were sitting on the pavilion. Ike Bowman, 35, was killed and his brother Hobart was taken to Erlanger’s Hospital, where it was found that he had been shot one time in the chest, once in the shoulder and a third time in the left arm. A bystander, Mrs. Warren Miles, was struck by a stray bullet and taken to Newell’s Sanitarium with her condition declared not serious. Accounts in the Times reported that the killing occurred, according to evidence and according to whispered reports, as the result of a feud between two elements of the liquor ring with which the mountainous portion of the north river section of Hamilton County was infested. The Bowmans had lost a still through confiscation by revenue agents and blamed Godsey for turning them up to the raiders, while Godsey, was sore at Bowman, whom he suspected of having led a posse of Sequatchie country officers to his still. The case took a surprising turn when it came to trial in November. More than 100 witnesses were summoned. Among those presented by the state were those who testified that the first shot was fired not by Godsey, as had been assumed, but rather by Edgar Freeman, who was lying under an automobile near Godsey. Freeman had just been knocked down by Ike Bowman, who was reaching under the car to drag him out when the first shot was fired. Before Godsey opened fire, said the witnesses, Bowman was already bleeding from a fatal bullet wound in the neck. The question then arose: Could Godsey be guilty of murdering Bowman if he had already been fatally wounded by Freeman, even though the wound inflicted by Godsey might also have proved fatal? When General Matt Whitaker gave the final argument for the State, he pictured Mrs. Bowman with her dying husband in her arms, causing seven of the twelve male jurors and men and women all over the courtroom to wipe tears from their eyes. After deliberating from 5 in the afternoon until 11:35 in the evening, the jury came through with a verdict of “not guilty” for Sam Godsey. During the trial, noted the Times reporter, “the courtroom and corridors of the courthouse have been thronged with friends of the principals of the tragedy, grim, close-mouthed and sullen individuals who smelled of corn liquor and every appearance of being ready for any emergency that might arise.” The Bowman-Godsey shooting spelled the end of the dances at the top of the “W” and over the rest of the mountain. “People just wouldn’t go, they were afraid,” explained one mountain resident. During the week of November 17th, a forest fire swept the side of Walden’s Ridge, consuming the dance hall in flames. Several days later the Hamilton County Grand Jury passed a resolution asking the owner Joe Anderson, to refrain from rebuilding the “W” dance hall on Walden’s ridge since it appeared that “the major part of Hamilton county’s reputed bootleggers, blockade runners and distillers were making the place their headquarters.” (41) The Fourth of July event ended the only organized entertainment then available on Walden’s Ridge for mountaineers and townspeople alike. (42) 

The event did not end moonshining on Walden’s Ridge. Federal revenue officers described Walden’s Ridge as one of the great areas of moonshine production in the country. Bootleggers saw whiskey and whiskey-making as a fundamental part of their lives and livelihood. They were cunning in locating their stills and carried barrels far up the hidden hollows, sometimes secreting them in deep caverns or abandoned mines. The stillers developed effective systems of lookouts and signals. Lawman often approached to find owners had seized the most valuable part of their equipment and fled. (43) Dabney’s Mountain Spirits elaborated: “One of the favorite sources of corn whiskey for Washington politicians during Prohibition was reached by a winding steep ‘W’ Road just outside of Chattanooga.” One of the mountain’s “colorful old distillers shipped his whiskey in ten-gallon charred kegs in wooden boxes marked ‘books.’ An acquaintance recalled that “the railroad agent would call and say, ‘you better come down here, your books are leaking’.” (44) Uncle Joe Miles was considered one of the famous distillers in the area. A 7/4/1963 Times column Looking Backward noted that “during prohibition some men of means who had had enough money to ‘lay in a supply of the famous legal brands would hold Uncle Joe’s liquor for very special occasions, and a vice president of the United States was known to value the Uncle Joe brand highly too.” Uncle Joe’s Times 9/8/1958 obituary described him as personal friend and confidant of Vice President John Nance Garner and Senator Nathan Bachman and famous for hospitality at this mountain home where he entertained in the traditional Tennessee mountaineer manner. (Son of Dr Jonathan Bachman, Senator Nathan Bachman owned a 39-acre summer home on the section of Anderson Pike just above the “W.” His daughter, Martha Bachman McCoy, later transferred ownership of the homeplace to the Town of Walden, which is now developing it as a town park) 

Three years after the shooting at the “W” dance pavilion, the county commission undertook to rebuild and widen the road. Each turn was widened, and substantial retaining walls were built to replace the original walls, which had been stacked without the use of mortar. To mark the reopening of the road, a general jubilation and barbecue were held in the open at the “W” at noon on Friday, November 11, 1927. The entire population of Chattanooga and Hamilton County was invited, including members of the convict gangs who performed the labor of improving the “W” Road. The event was attended by about 500 people. (45)  

In 1935 the William Howard Taft Highway opened allowing motorists to climb Walden’s Ridge along Shoal Creek, pass through the town of Signal Mountain and continue across the higher elevations of the mountain before descending into Sequatchie Valley near Dunlap. The new straighter highway replaced much of the old Anderson Pike without altering the “W.” 


Today, Walden’s Ridge, which contains the towns of Walden and Signal Mountain, is primarily a residential community with a few surviving summer homes and many new year-round ones. When the “W” is closed due to snow, ice, rockslides, fallen trees, or road erosion, Highway 127 (Taft Highway), and Robert’s Mill Road provide alternative, routes for Commuters driving to and from Chattanooga. 


The remnants of Anderson Pike include: a few sections of gently winding back roads; an abandoned wagon track in Sequatchie County now state-owned with parts being restored as a hiking trail; and a connector from Taft Highway to the top of the “W,” whose hairpin curves continue to confound first time travelers. Much of the character of the original thoroughfare stretching from Sequatchie Valley over Walden’s Ridge to Mountain Creek Road has changed. Motorists, bicyclists, and the occasional jogger can reflect on the rich history of the American Indians, farmers, Army wagon drivers, mules, Union generals and troops, hack drivers, teamsters, refugees from war and disease, road builders, bootleggers, revenuers, mountain folk, and Summertowners, who have travelled this famous road. 


The author thanks several for their assistance. The staff of the Local History Department at the Chattanooga Public Library provided extensive help. Kay Baker Gaston, regional historian, and her lively The Story of the ‘W’ Road were most helpful. (In 1976 she spearheaded the Walden’s Ridge Historical Association’s restoration of the Conner Toll House and its listing on the National Register of Historic Places). Jim Douthat with his extensive knowledge on the early history of Walden’s Ridge provided useful information in many areas. Karen Stone’s Walden ‘s Ridge had informative interviews with leading personalities, and her book on the Little Brown Church gave excellent information. Jim Ogden, historian at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and nationally known for his exhaustive knowledge of the Civil War in this area, provided many useful insights. 

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