What Did That Building Used To Be? - Southern Saddlery

Sunday, February 23, 2003 - by Harmon Jolley
Southern Saddlery. Click to enlarge.
Southern Saddlery. Click to enlarge.

In the field of Economics, the term “vertical integration” refers to a company owning multiple stages of the production process, usually including the point of raw material becoming available. For example, a company which owns orange groves as well as juice-processing plants is practicing vertical integration. At 3001 South Broad Street is a building which once housed the Southern Saddlery Company, once vertically-aligned with the Scholze Tannery, the processor of the raw material for saddles.

At the end of the Civil War, Robert Scholze came to Chattanooga. His previous experience and career pursuit in his native Germany was as a tanner. He initially worked in a dairy, but his career again came calling when a job became available at the Chattanooga Leather and Manufacturing Company at the foot of Lookout Mountain. Scholze was able to buy the company’s assets when it failed in the panic of 1872. In 1878, he started Southern Saddlery as a finished goods division. Robert Scholze trained his employees in leatherworking. Their products became widely known for quality of workmanship. Southern Saddlery remained a part of the tannery until Mr. Scholze died in 1907, at which time his survivors established it as a separate business.

At the time of the founding of the company, and for many years thereafter, transportation and agriculture were dependent on the horse or mule. Southern Saddlery was ready to meet the demand, with hand-crafted saddles, collars, and other riding equipment. When automobiles became available, the company supplied leather fan belts. When the Great Depression caused families to be unable to afford the purchase or upkeep of cars, some returned to the horse or mule, and Southern maintained a steady business in saddles.

In 1929, Southern Saddlery opened a retail store at the manufacturing plant. The saddlery store was not the first to be in business on that property. Daniel Ross, father of John Ross, had operated a store there along Chattanooga Creek in the early 1800’s. To manage the store, Southern chose Mrs. Kate McGrail. She continued as store manager, with additional duties as treasurer and manager of the retail division, until her retirement in 1966. In a February 19, 1966 interview with the Chattanooga Times, Mrs. McGrail noted that when she joined Southern Saddlery in 1918, the company was the principal supplier to the cavalry post at Fort Oglethorpe, and lost a good customer when the army base was later closed.

As the horse-power of automobiles won out over real horse-power, the saddlery industry declined. There was a brief renewal of interest during the era of Western movies (starring John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, and others) and TV shows ( “The Virginian,” “Gunsmoke,” “Rawhide,” and many others), and the market eventually concentrated on supplying the horse enthusiasts. Though machinery had been applied to the manufacturing process, the business was still very labor-intensive. The Scholze family sold the company in 1976. Then, two years later, in what would have been the year of its 100th anniversary, it was put on the auction block. The Alpine-Rice Moving and Storage company used the building for storage for a while. Today, the former saddlery building is awaiting its next use, along with the neighboring Wheland Foundry site.

If you have memories of Southern Saddlery, and would like to comment on this article, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@signaldata.net.



Chester Martin Remembers Original Settlers Of Walker And Chattooga Counties, Ga.

My Martin forebears had arrived in south Walker County by 1836, waiting for removal of the Native Americans from the area. That finally happened, and Great Granddad, Enos Martin, witnessed the event. He was still a teenager at the time, and lived near the Broomtown Road – shown as the first "Brainerd's Road" to appear on any local map) . It was called that because it led directly ... (click for more)

Seeking Information on the Cotten Patch Restaurant - and Responses

A reader has requested information on the former Cotten Patch restaurant which was located at 2501 E. Main Street.  Here's what has been found: The restaurant was started in the mid-1950's at 2520 Rossville Boulevard by John W. Cotton.  The business had to relocate to Main Street due to construction of I-24.  The Cotton Patch operated until the late ... (click for more)

Saw Mill Fire In Lookout Valley Causes $185,000 In Damages

A saw mill fire in Lookout Valley on Sunday morning caused $185,000 in damage. At approximately 7:45 a.m. , calls began coming in to Hamilton County 911 about a fire in a saw mill located at 3510 Pan Gap Circle in Lookout Valley. Smoke could be seen from downtown Chattanooga when firefighters from Station One on Main Street began to respond.   ... (click for more)

Michael Wilson Back In Bradley County; Due In Court On Monday

Michael Wilson is back in Bradley County, and was escorted into the Correctional Facility around 8:15 p.m. Wilson’s first appearance in court will be on Monday, at 9 a.m. in the Bradley County General Sessions Courtroom at the Judicial Complex at 2290 Blythe Ave. Wilson was arrested last week, after e ndangered Bradley County child Skyla Wilson was found safe in Colorado ... (click for more)

Pedestrians Have The Right Of Way - And Response (3)

Often I visit Gold's Gym at Chestnut and 4th Street. I  park in the theater parking lot at Broad and 4th Street.  I depend on the walk signs to get me there safely.  Most days I almost get hit by someone turning left or right coming from the exit ramp off 27 or turning right on 4th street from Chestnut. This happened yesterday as I was almost mowed down by a garbage ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Girls - ‘I Can And I Will’

Every night after the Rodriguez girls went to sleep not that long ago in a grim, rat-infested basement apartment on Chicago’s South Side, their father – a boxing referee who came to America from Puerto Rico -- would kneel beside the girls’ bed and whisper in each child’s ear. Their parents made them sleep hot-dog style, tightly wrapped in the same sheet and pressed together to protect ... (click for more)