'The land of hogs, hominy' and Hunt Brothers Pizza
The speed limit of ever bit of Statesville's half mile of Main Street is posted at 25 miles per hour.
"We like to say if you blink your eyes, you've missed it," says Donna Hill, who has spent 56 of her 76 years here. She resides in the house directly across the street from the big blue-and-white round "Welcome to Statesville" sign that decades ago advertised Gulf Gasoline.
Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on where you're standing or where you're eating.
From Tommy and Garnette Taylor's shoes, whose Statesville Market on Statesville Road reportedly set a state record for selling 121 Hunt Brothers Pizzas during their first week of business, things have been heating up.
"Everybody here's hungry," Tommy said referring to the number of folks they've been feeding since they opened April 29.
While there is no official population for this unincorporated town that sits close by the headwaters of Smith Fork Creek (formed by the merger of Knight Creek, Sunset Creek, Clever Creek and Rocky Branch), more than 600 citizens voted here in the Home Demonstration Club house at the last county election. That would include voters living in such other southeast Wilson County communities as Cottage Home, Prosperity, Liberty Hill and Greenvale.
County commissioner Sara Patton, who lives in a house on Main Street that was built in the 1800s and harbors the ghost of a Civil War soldier, won't venture to guess the population, but noted, "This end of the county's actually growing up. When they [home buyers] come to look, they don't even know that Statesville's in Wilson County.
"We've got a new WEMA [Wilson County Emergency Management Agency] station," she boasted about the welcome addition that opened in November, and then confessed with a smile, "You know it's a small town when you know the names of everybody's dogs."
Established in 1812, the settlement originally was dubbed Maryville but later took on its current moniker in honor of the North Carolina city 363 miles to the east. Things peaked in 1835 when the town supported seven stores, five saloons, three blacksmith shops, a boot and shoe shop, a cabinet/coffin shop, a tanning yard, hotel, several doctors' offices and a woolen mill.
Along the way someone dubbed it "the land of hogs and hominy, with milk and honey for dessert."
Driving the 6.3-mile winding stretch of asphalt from Watertown, one passes Smith Fork Missionary Baptist Church before entering the hamlet via a one-lane concrete bridge built in 1927 by the Luten Bridge Company out of Knoxville.
Turning left onto Main Street, visitors will spy Smith Fork Baptist Church, Statesville United Methodist Church and the United Methodist Fellowship Hall (in what used to be Baine's Grocery) on the left. On the right sits the Home Demonstration Clubhouse and a structure that was Mr. Cleo's garage.
Donnie Martin, the self-appointed mayor of Statesville, who has lived on Main Street the past 18 years, said, "My friends say, 'How'd the hell you find that place?'"
He explained, "I was living in Madison and wanting to get out of there, so I started looking for me a house. I came up here and looked twice at this house. Then I got off work one day and got a big, thick real estate book and opened it up and turned straight to this same house. I thought that was an omen. I liked that it was out here in the country and peaceful."
That peace was interrupted by the May 2010 flood, but that was when he truly learned who his neighbors were.
"On Saturday afternoon a neighbor called and said, 'Creek's getting on up.' I went out in the backyard to move my four-wheeler from the shed and felt something on my feet. I tied the propane tank to a tree, and by the time I got to the front the water was flowing," he recalled.
"My neighbors Billy and Anthony helped me get my boat out of the garage, and then Marty and everybody around here helped me get my guns and medicine and my dog out. It came up so quick, we were wading through the water. The water got two feet up in the house, ruined everything. It was a bad day and year. Every May 1, I think of it."
But he ain't leaving.
"There are good people here," he said. "And I just like where I can go outside and enjoy the country living. It's laid back. I can do what I want. Ride my four-wheeler with my dog," said the retired iron worker and crane operator, a native of Sand Mountain, Ala.
Of course, everybody who lived here 43 years ago remembers the April 3, 1974, flood that swamped all the homes on the north side of Main Street. The rushing waters swept away
Stroud's Store. The Methodist Church was damaged beyond repair, and Baine's Store was sloshed with up to 35 inches of mud and water.
Historic floods aside, the big news these days is the fact that Statesville Market is up and running, thus there's a local gathering place in which to eat and greet.
Market owner Garnette Taylor, who grew up across the DeKalb County line in Liberty, said, "I've always wanted to do this. It's something the community needs to bring it together. We have so many people who just come in here and sit, and that's what we want. Some folks come over here and eat two or three days a week."
Garnette and Tommy prepare the food but are ably assisted by Kathy McNeal and Tamara Cook, and their daughter, Leighanna, also pitches in, and Piper, their 2½-year-old granddaughter, handles the PR by smiling at everybody.
Garnette said they were keeping the menu simple for now with a breakfast menu of bacon, sausage, country ham, tenderloin, pork chops, biscuits and gravy. Later in the day, they serve burgers, BBQ, chicken tenders, fries, tater tots, onion rings, and their big hit, Hunt Brothers Pizza.
The store has four tables indoors that seat 16, and three church pews out front work just fine for those who want to sit and chew the fat. Two TV screens inside are tuned to Cozi TV where vintage TV series like "Lassie," "Emergency," "The Lone Ranger" and "Little House on the Prairie" are playing.
Tommy's uncle, Donald Taylor, operated a store here from 1986 until 1996. As to why Tommy and Garnette decided to give it a shot, he said, "We been married for 26 years, and she's been wanting it for 24. I'm retiring from the heating and cooling business. We thought this could be a way to make a good living and help the community out too. It's been an adventure.
"We bought this the last day of July last year and been here every day and are still trying to pull it together. It's a seven-day-a-week job. We serve hot meals for breakfast and cold sandwiches and may eventually do a meat-and-three. It looks like it's gonna turn more into a restaurant. I wanted it to be more of a convenience store with a deli," said the Statesville lifer.
The market sells milk, beanie weenies, ice, cold drinks, chips, candy bars and Moon Pies, but most of the shelves are empty since business has been so brisk the Taylors' have been working 18 hour days and not had time to order more supplies nor had any luck getting a gasoline distributor as of yet.
The sign over door as you exit the store reflects the downhome atmosphere as it reads: Thank ya'll and hurry back.
A half mile west of Statesville on Greenvale Road stands the community's schoolhouse that was built in 1933 and closed in 1960. The school went through the eighth grade with its graduates sent on to Watertown High.
The school lunch room has been retired to Fiddlers Grove Village at the Wilson County Fairgrounds. The schoolhouse suits needs for community and private events such as family reunions, anniversaries and birthday parties. The Statesville Grange and Modern Woodmen of the World meet here the third Thursday night of the month.
A precious heirloom remains hanging in the schoolhouse, a stage curtain that was placed here in 1937 by the P.T.A. and Statesville Home Demonstration Club. Painted by C.K. Compton of Columbia, Tenn., the curtain oozes nostalgia with its dozens of colorful advertisements from businesses that once flourished in Statesville, Watertown, Lebanon, Auburntown and Alexandria.
Roy Vann Murphy, 80, who graduated with the eighth-grade class of 1951, cherishes vivid memories of the school. Born in Chumley Hollow, he grew up on a farm a couple of miles out of Statesville.
He recollected, "One of the big activities here when I was in sixth or seventh grade, they started having Western movies on Friday nights. We boys rode our horses out of the hollows and tied 'em out back. There might be 30 to 40 horses all up and down the fence."
Joanne Corley Shipper, like Murphy, has lived in Statesville all her life. She went to school here through the sixth grade before transferring to Watertown in 1958. She recalls five businesses still operating here during the 1950s: three general stores, a garage and a barber shop. Before she was born, her granddaddy, Lester Bullard, cut hair in the long-since-gone hotel.
Shipper said, "I've been told that Granddaddy would barber hair all day on Saturdays and cut men and women and children's hair. He would make enough money on Saturday to pay for a hired hand for the week."
Her mother, Sue Bullard Corley, compiled two pictorial history books about Statesville that totaled close to 700 pages with hundreds of photographs.
"When we had Tennessee Homecoming '86, she got all of these pictures together and displayed them in the clubhouse. She had so many pictures that people would come and stand and look and look. People said, 'You have to save this some way,' so she just made a book," said Shipper. "After the first book more people had other pictures, so she made a second volume."
Shipper described Statesville, saying, "It's such peaceful place to live. You couldn't ask for any prettier territory. It's a place you feel safe to be, too. You're not afraid for your kids to go out to play or ride their bicycles on the road like the world was some time ago."
Sleepy village? Maybe. Maybe not. But from where most Statesvillians are standing, they have no plans to make haste and hightail it away for big-city life. But if they did, they would ease away at 25 miles per hour.
Some facts for this article were gleaned from Statesville: A Visual Image of Our Heritage by Sue B. Corley, 1987
The market sits at 6575 Statesville Road where Highway 267 and Hardin Hollow Road meet. Hours are 5:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. Breakfast features bacon, sausage, country ham, tenderloin, pork chops, biscuits and gravy. The lunch and dinner menu includes burgers, pizza, BBQ, chicken tenders, fries, tater tots and onion rings. Phone: (615) 286-1515. Facebook page: facebook.com/StatesvilleMarket/