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.



Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Presents Book

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society presented the book Order of First Families of North Carolina Registry of Ancestors by John R. Brayton, The book contains research information from the days when Tennessee made up the western-most portion of North Carolina.  Many of the residents of Signal Mountain can trace their families to that time and location.  Betty Fassnacht, ... (click for more)

TSLA Releases a New Digital Collection Showcasing Tennessee Folklife

What do roley hole marbles, white oak baskets, shape-note singing, and banjoes have in common? All are examples of Tennessee folk culture or "folkways" available online in the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ newest digital collection: "Tennessee State Parks Folklife Project Collection, 1979-1984." The collection documents folk culture unique to Tennessee and highlights Tennessee's ... (click for more)

Grote Hall At UTC Campus Closed Due To Sinkhole

A sinkhole has prompted UTC officials to close off access to Grote Hall. Grote Hall employees have been told they do not need to report to work on Monday. Classes that are held in Grote Hall are called off for Monday. All other classes and campus activities are on for Monday. (click for more)

Bradley County Police Investigating Shooting; Victim Dies

The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a shooting that occurred in the area of Georgetown Road. The sheriff's office said Sunday night that the victim had died. The victim's name has not yet been released.  A BCSO officer was waved down at the intersection of 25 th Street and Peerless Road by the driver of a vehicle who told the officer a gunshot victim ... (click for more)

Don't Be Quick To Discard Common Core

Let's not be too quick to discard Common Core. A recent article in the Tennessean on  Sunday detailed Common Core successes the Kingsport, Tennessee school system.  I encourage you to read it.  The article also noted that Tennessee was recently ranked as one of the fastest improving states in education after implementing portions of the Common Core curriculum ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UVa --Time For Change

The University of Virginia is, by any measure, one of the finest universities in the world. I have long admired it, whether covering dozens of sports events, cavorting with countless friends, or benefitting repeatedly from the surgical skills of the late world-class humanitarian Frank McCue. But today there is a terrible pall over “Mr. Jefferson’s university” – no, make that a ... (click for more)