By Taylor Hinson, Reporter for Lewis County Historical Society
The Lewis County Historical Society and the Hohenwald/Lewis County Chamber of Commerce held the dedication ceremony of Killebrew’s Caboose at 112 East Main Street in Hohenwald on Saturday, June 15, 2019. The red caboose has been renovated in the past, and got a fresh coat of paint for this event when it became an important symbol of the history of this town.
Debbie Landers, Director of the Chamber of Commerce, explained there had been a contest to name the caboose. The winning entry was “Killebrew’s Caboose.” DeAnna Darden-Carroll, President of the Lewis County Historical Society, gave a brief speech on the historical significance of Colonel Joseph Buckner Killebrew to Hohenwald and Lewis County.
Joseph Buckner Killebrew was born in Montgomery County in 1831. He married Mary Catherine Killebrew after becoming the executor of her father’s estate, which included the management of hundreds of acres of land. He was a brilliant writer and speaker.
Killebrew realized the South needed increased knowledge of agriculture, and saw the need for everyone to have access to an education. He advocated for improvement of the educational system and of agriculture, which included crop rotation and development of natural resources for industry. During this time he was also involved in bringing immigrants to the South. Col. Killebrew travelled to many towns and communities to speak on various topics.
In 1871, the Bureau of Agriculture was established at Killebrew’s urging. Soon after, he published the first issue of the Rural Sun. The Rural Sun promoted immigration, development of timber, mineral resources and industry, all of which are relevant to Hohenwald. The timber industry is of great importance, since Hohenwald is German for “High Forest.”
Col J.B. Killebrew held many different positions in his life. In 1894 he became the Immigration Agent of the N.C. & St. L. Railway. In that position, he worked with the Swiss Pioneer Union and helped to settle the lands of Lewis County. From 1894-1901, he made several trips to Hohenwald, including spending time in Swiss Colony to support the success of the new settlement. After the visit in 1895, Killebrew stated the Swiss Colony in Hohenwald was “the most promising colony that has been started in the south, because the people composing it are so intelligent.” He distributed tobacco seed in 1897, which yielded one of the best crops in the state the following year, and in 1898 gave a lecture on the history and culture of tobacco.
Col. Killebrew wrote his autobiography titled, “Recollections of my Life, Volumes 1 and 2.” He mentions his trips that he took to our town. This shows that he cared what happened to our town, as well as how his contributions of knowledge and speeches may have contributed to the town we are today.
Col. Killebrew passed away in 1906.
Philip Griner, former Hohenwald Mayor, spoke about the railroad in Hohenwald and Lewis County. He shared information on its history, and explained this line came from Dickson and ran to Riverside.
Descendants of Col. Killebrew that attended the dedication were Katherine “Kay” Silvey Harker and Walter Michael “Mike” Silvey, great-great grandchildren, Mike’s daughter-in-law, Sarah Silvey and her children, Eli and Ezra Silvey.
The Lewis County Historical Society would like to recognize the following for their efforts to make the celebration successful:
Barbara J. Hinson for funding the cost of labor and Landis and Janet Turner for purchasing the paint for Killebrew’s Caboose; the City of Hohenwald, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department, Danny Allen and All About Fab and Machine LLC, Coy Norris and 412 Building Supply and Metals, Barry Carroll, Kade Carroll, Sam Davis, Leila Oertel and friends, Annette Peery and Rylan Sims.
The next monthly Lewis County Historical Society meeting will be held at the Lewis County Public Library on July 20, 2019 from 1-3 pm. The topic will be the old “Ice House” on Mill Street. The building was also the Clay Feed Store and other businesses over the years. We are specifically interested in seeing photos and hearing stories about the building. The meeting is open to the public and is free to attend, but we are always excited to have new members become involved in our fun, history loving club. Membership is $10 per year. Come on out and enjoy learning about the history of this great town!