Archives director Linda Granstaff shares county history with 600-plus photos
When it comes to the matter of facts about Wilson County, Linda Granstaff proves to be a walking, talking encyclopedia.
But rather than preaching the gospel about her favorite place on earth, the director of the Wilson County Archives is publishing it via a mammoth pictorial with more than 660 photographs that scopes every corner of the county and everything in between with images that cover a span of 135 years.
Her new book, "From the Wilson County Archives Collection of Images," offers a mesmerizing glimpse, mostly into yesteryear, of people and institutions that claimed this place as home. She will be signing the book 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday at the archives.
There's likely no one better qualified to have orchestrated this 440-pages-plus tome as she was raised across the county, attending six different schools during her youth.
"I love the county all over. I've never been partial to any part of the county," she says from her niche inside the county archives, a place she has occupied for the past 18 years, on South College Street.
Born and raised all over Wilson
Coincidentally, she was born two blocks up the same street in Martha Gaston Hospital (today the site of Cedarcroft Home). Her parents were Walter and Robbie (Griffin) Gannon, and her father was a tenant farmer and construction worker.
Wilson County pictorial on sale
Linda Granstaff will sign copies of "From the Wilson County Archives Collection of Images" from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Wilson County Archives at 111 S. College St. The 440-page book holds more than 660 photographs that preserve details about people, places and institutions in the county. Cost is $40, with funds to go to the non-profit archives that are under the direction of the public records committee. Archives hours are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Phone: 443-1993.
She began the first grade at Watertown Elementary School, and over the next 12 years attended schools in Taylorsville, Greenvale, Leeville and Mt. Juliet before graduating from Lebanon High School.
"I lived all over the county and know where most of the creeks are and probably played in them.
As a child I went into many of the country stores and that allowed me to get a feel of the communities. I went to all kinds of churches. Dad didn't have a car so we walked to the nearest church wherever we lived," said Granstaff, who lives in the Rocky Valley community with Buddy, her husband of 50 years.
Got her start researching family history
In the 1970s she began researching her family history at the Wilson County Library, which led to her helping others do the same. That eventually turned into her volunteering at the library and county court clerk's office in responding to letters from folks from out of town who were asking questions about their genealogy. Granstaff began her stint with the county archives in 1998 and works there Monday through Thursday. Her co-director Thomas Partlow fills the bill on Fridays.
"When I came here I always thought pictures were a great way to preserve history. I started collecting them. That gave me the idea of putting some in a book so more people could enjoy them," she said.
Not only has the archives amassed more than 4,000 images over the years, but Granstaff and her husband canvassed the county documenting dozens of aging structures.
"I began working on this last February. I took photos around the county to preserve what's left in communities that can still be found," she said referring to vintage church houses, long closed school buildings and other sites on their last legs.
The photographs are arranged in 13 chapters that go under such headings as history, Lebanon, Watertown, Mt. Juliet, post offices, townspeople, resorts and recreation, schools, round about the city, maneuvers-wars and connection to today and yesterday.
One fascinating chapter features tidbits from newspapers between 1935-1939 and other memories.
Besides people and places, the variety of photos range from aerial views, houses, businesses, schools, churches, old country stores and farm scenes.
Picked one favorite for the cover
Granstaff is unable to pick a favorite image, saying, "They're all my favorites."
However, she did have to choose one for the cover of the book. That image, taken on Aug. 5, 1898, depicts a 16-year-old Benjamin Joshua Carver plowing a field with three mules at the spot where today stands the 224 mile marker of Interstate 40. Carver was the grandfather of Jo Ann Carver Davenport, who furnished the photo.
She says of her choice, "I've always been a fanatic of mules. I guess because I always rode mules while my dad plowed, and I thought it was unique because the picture shows the boy plowing with three mules."
Granstaff had 110 copies of "From the Wilson County Archives Collection of Images" printed at Creative Graphics in Lebanon. Amy Bass was the graphic designer. The book sells for $40 with the proceeds going back to the archives, which has a non-profit status.
Archives home to thousands of local treasures
Granstaff, who attended Tennessee Archives Institute workshops for three years in the late 1990s, encourages Wilson County natives to bring vintage local photographs to the archives for preservation.
"The goal of the archives," she noted, "is to preserve our county records and store them in a way that they are accessible. We have a research room and a microfilm room that people can come and use."
The 9,000-square-feet of the archives holds books, photographs, video histories, maps, artifacts and vertical files of families and communities pertaining to Wilson County, which was created Oct. 26, 1799.
Granstaff and Partlow are assisted by volunteers Lee Atwood, Catherine Nolan, Shirley Wilson, Evelyn Lannom, Aretha Oakley and Cathrine Brown, who report for duty every Tuesday.
Linda and Buddy Granstaff have three children: Sharon, Cindy and Scott; and six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Linda's hobbies include horseback riding, fishing, hunting and painting.
But her favorite topic remains Wilson County, of course.
"I wouldn't want to live anywhere else," says the archivist who can picture every corner of the county in her mind but has placed a myriad of these rich images in a book for multitudes to enjoy.
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.