By MATT MASTERS
Beth Lothers and Vicky Travis, authors of “Images of America: Nolensville,” spoke about their new book at the LeHew Magid Big House in Franklin on Thursday evening.
Lothers, a current Williamson County Commissioner and former mayor of Nolensville, and Travis, a long-time journalist and writer, began the photo-centered history book in 2017, where they interviewed long-time residents, heard oral histories and collected some 1,200 photographs.
About two dozen people gathered for refreshments before the presentation and book signing afterwards where they learned about the milestones in the history of Nolensville.
Their research began with Nolensville’s original history book entitled “Nolensville 1797-1987 Reflections of a Tennessee Town,” also known simply as “The Red Book,” and by referencing six journals complied by the Nolensville Historical Society among other books and newspaper archives and of course by interviewing numerous families in and around Nolensville.
“One of the first families that we spoke to was the Nichols family,” Travis said, pointing out the significance of a photo included in the book that shows some of the Nichols children with milk pales in hand, calling back to the community’s dairy farm roots.
Lothers and Travis also spoke about the Nolen family, whose origin story is based in a broken wagon wheel which led them to settle the area. That broken wheel is today incorporated in the town’s seal.
The duo also spoke of the importance of family Bibles and their use as records for the dates of birth and death of family members, lineages that helped Lothers and Travis remember the names of people who may not have achieved notable greatness but remained as important figures in family histories.
“Even if we don’t have every family in Nolensville in the book, I hope that everyone can find themselves in what’s represented,” Lothers said.
Among the challenges were editing the stories to include in the book and whittling down the 1,200 photos to 200 that would make their way in the final published copy.
“That was one of the hardest things was to figure out how to organize it,” Lothers said.
Lothers and Travis also detailed streets that have evolved from dirt paved roads and buildings that have been lost to fires, storms or future plans of new centuries.
Roads such as Sam Donald Road are also detailed in the book, uncovering the history of an American military hero who settled in Nolensville after surviving the horrors of World War Two.
“Part of our quest in doing this book was to give reasons for names, especially for new-comers,” Travis said. “And even for us, we could be considered new-comers. We’ve been in Nolensville since the 90’s.”
The book also recounts the town’s rich African American history, including Woodrow Williams who played on the fields before playing baseball in the Negro National League and later serving in World War Two.
“We have a rich history too in Nolensville with having one of the most celebrated and honored African American ball fields on Sunset Road with Sunset Park,” Lothers said. “So we have the story in our book, and there were so many people who gathered there and played there.”
Lothers closed the presentation reading a passage out loud.
“The hardest thing that we tried to figure out is how to really share the history of a town. Now we’re part of the history but only for 20 years, but the history of a town and what shadows of the past can come into clear view, what structures still remain, how we tell a history of a town? Does one look to a creek that still winds its way through the rocky, grassy banks, running high and low, a moving mirror of facing peeking into it? Feet waving, arms splashing, fish lines dropped to its depth. Cows plotting sure-footed to cool in the heat of the day,” Lothers read.
“Does one look to the largest and oldest of trees with roots spread wide and deep, the ones spared for shade and cover, for climbing or hiding or a search to see beyond the distance for either enjoyment or surveillance, as a Native American scout or a Confederate Spy? Does one look at the Native American trail that became a service road for a dusty stagecoach, then a toll road to pay forward with stops and starts to a paved highway as the spokes Southward to North, leading to Nashville and beyond.”
Heritage Foundation Director of Preservation Blake Wintory said that this was the first such event held by the Heritage Foundation, one that they hope will continue to connect people to the history of their communities and the people who molded them.
“This is part of the Heritage Foundation’s mission to reach out and talk about history and the heritage of the entire county and really we’re excited about talking about the whole region and history in general,” Wintory said.