Chester Martin Remembers Some Trivia About The TAG Railroad

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 - by Chester Martin
New gravestone for Joshua Martin. Chester Martin says he has no idea who installed the new stones for Joshua and Enos.
New gravestone for Joshua Martin. Chester Martin says he has no idea who installed the new stones for Joshua and Enos.

For you young people out there - of 70 and under - you need to be clued in that "The TAG" was an acronym for, "Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia Railroad", which was based here in Chattanooga. If you want the full, "in-depth" story, you will need to refer to John Wilson's fine new book on Chattanooga railroads. My idea here is simply to give some observations and details of lesser, but interesting, importance. Although I never got to take one single ride on that line while growing up I still have strong feelings about it, as it cut directly across my family's history, as well as across their property. It ran from Chattanooga to Gadsden, Alabama, and its Chattanooga terminus was at Union Depot, across from the Read House on MLK (then 9th Street).

Being locally owned, it was a source of much civic pride.

My great-great grandfather Joshua Martin's family were "original settlers" of south Walker County, Ga., coming to claim a lot drawn in one of the Cherokee Land Lotteries of the early 1800's. Native Americans still lived on the land. Joshua's son, Enos Martin, was a teenager at the time, and grew to manhood on some choice farmland near where Walker and Chattooga Counties connect with Pigeon Mountain. His dad gave him a fertile plot of this land to establish the farm where my grandfather was born in 1860. (Yes, I said 1860!). This land he farmed for many years, living in a small house at the foot of Pigeon Mountain.

One day, about 1890, the incredible news spread through the community that a railroad was going to be built through the area. This would mean a drastic shift in their lives, their days of isolation would be past, and new markets might be opened for their farm produce. Summerville was nearby, and also LaFayette, but new prospects in Chattanooga might be even better.

My grandfather had a young (and growing) family by this time, and, although a busy farmer, he had time in winter months to work on the new rail line. It cut directly across his dad's (Mr. Enos's) land, and probably brought them some immediate, much-needed, cash rewards.

The TAG Railroad offices were in Chattanooga, with such personages as Z. Cartter Patten (Chattem founder) on the board of directors - followed much later by Mose and Garrison Siskin, (founders and benefactors of Siskin Hospital), who actually owned it in the 1960's. It brought new life to areas which had formerly been quite remote, set far away from the main thoroughfares of commerce at the foot of mountains. Wherever the new railroad crossed an older wagon road, a new minor station or whistle-stop would arise. And so it was with my family's area: their new railroad stop was named, "Harrisburg" in honor of "the one in Pennsylvany", according to my dad, who spoke with the farmers' accent of the day.

I am forever intrigued by the place-names that fell on the TAG route - names that remind you more of refined places in England, such as "Kensington", "Chelsea", "Menlo", "Cassandra", "Estelle", than of Georgia, USA. Or with the more American sound of, "Alton Park", "High Point", or "Bronco". One stop on the TAG RR was a pure Native American name, called "Teloga", the name of a nearby creek. But from past researches on other projects I learned it referred to Teloga peas, a staple in the diets of both both Natives and new settlers, making me think of the "Peavine" community, near Ringgold.  A few remnants of the original railroad still exist, but very few. The last time I was at Menlo, Ga., I could find no trace of The TAG crossing  where my second-cousin, Bill Leath, and I used to walk on Sunday afternoons. John Wilson's new book on Railroads would probably be the best place to see where the remnants of that long-defunct railroad might be found, and help reconstruct the past.

For many years my dad always talked about "The Scooter" - a single car feature of The TAG, which carried passengers only. My aunt from Menlo used it often when she came to visit in Chattanooga, but - again - I never got my promised trip on it. It was taken off-line unexpectedly and unceremoniously, never to return. Don't ask me how it ran!

Dad was about six years old when The TAG was started. It had about the same impact on him as the latest "Star Wars" movie, or a trip to Disney, would have on my grandchildren today - maybe even more. We cannot fathom an America so simple as the one my father grew up in - when a very distant, low, train whistle on a hot and sultry summer night stirred a young boy's imaginings as to what wondrous things might lie in the great outside world. I still have two of his family's wooden chairs which served as train cars when he and his brothers "played train" on the floor of their Harrisburg, Ga., home in the 1890's.

As work on The TAG railroad got underway, a Native American mysteriously arrived in the area from parts unknown, but seemingly to observe what was going on. He stayed with my grandparents, telling them nothing about what he was up to...and I describe that whole incident in another "Memory".  Stay tuned!

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at )

New gravestone for Enos Martin
New gravestone for Enos Martin

Tennessee State Museum Announces Permanent And Temporary Exhibitions For October Opening

In October, a bold new vision for the Tennessee State Museum will be realized when it opens at the northwest corner of Rosa L. Parks Boulevard and Jefferson Street at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. It’s the first and only building in the museum’s 81-year history dedicated exclusively for its use. Housed in a 137,000-square-foot facility, the new location is built with the ... (click for more)

John Shearer: Remembering When Burt Reynolds Came To Chattanooga

As a shy teenager growing up in Chattanooga in the 1970s, I had a movie role model to follow in trying to figure out how to have charisma, learn to have self-confidence and be outgoing, and be masculine and appealing to females.  The person, of course, was longtime actor Burt Reynolds, who died Thursday of a heart attack at age 82. He was a man’s man, so to speak, even ... (click for more)

Man Killed In Single-Vehicle Accident Early Monday Morning In Bradley County

A man was killed early Monday morning in Bradley County in a single-vehicle accident.   Bradley County Sheriff’s Deputies responded around 3:30 a.m. to a traffic accident at the intersection of Rabbit Valley Road and Bigsby Creek Road in NW Bradley County.   Upon arrival, deputies discovered a single vehicle had struck a pole. The driver, a male, was ... (click for more)

Karen Saxton, 64, Killed In Crash On Highway 58 Saturday Afternoon

One person was killed in a crash on Highway 58 on Saturday afternoon. The victim was identified as Karen Saxton, 64. Chattanooga Police responded at 5:15 p.m. to the wreck in the 5900 block of Highway 58.  Upon arrival officers located a vehicle driven by 21-year-old Allen Dickerson in the northbound lane and the Saxton vehicle in the southbound lane. Police said ... (click for more)

Arming Teachers With Guns Will Be Too Dangerous - And Response (4)

Arming teachers with guns in the classroom, as Bill Lee proposes, would be the single most dangerous thing to happen to students in Tennessee history. Students and teachers in close proximity to loaded firearms daily? Across this state, in middle schools alone, there are probably hundreds of student/teacher conflicts a day. What if a student got hold of gun in a struggle with ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s So Sad For Me

I cannot remember a time in my life when I have been as saddened by such a travesty that has now erupted in the confirmation process that would place Brett Kavanaugh on our Supreme Court. I am sad for every single person who has been touched by this catastrophe, from 85-year-old Dianne Feinstein to Brett’s wife and two young daughters, ages 13 and 10. Not a person, in any way involved, ... (click for more)