A decision that will enhance the lives of people on Walden's Ridge for years to come is the legacy of a remarkable woman. The property Martha Bachman McCoy wanted in her will for the Town of Walden to purchase for the use of the people is one of few large parcels of property left on the Ridge.
Mrs. McCoy's life spanned the entire 20th Century, a time of unparalleled growth and change. The daughter of Tennessee U.S. Senator Nathan Bachman and granddaughter of Dr. Jonathan Waverly Bachman, long-time pastor of First Presbyterian Church, she grew up on Walden's Ridge in the home on Anderson Pike purchased by her father in 1912.
After her marriage to Attorney Tom McCoy they lived in Asheville, N.C., where their daughter, Sally was born. Mrs. McCoy maintained a close association with her parents and the home in Walden's Ridge, returning with her family to live there to care for her mother after her father's death in 1947.
Walden historian Karen Paul Stone knew Mrs. McCoy when she was growing up. During the years Mrs. Stone lived away the McCoys were married, lived in Asheville and then returned to the mountain.. He died in the early fifties, so Mrs. Stone, who returned in 1985, never knew him, but "he was said to be one handsome man. She kept his picture on her dresser forever."
Mrs. Stone has many fond memories of Mrs. McCoy in the days when she would ride her horse on the McCoy property or see Mrs. McCoy riding her horse by her home. Mrs. McCoy invited any of the children to ride their horses on her property, so long as they behaved properly.
Mrs. Stone's mother, Virginia Paul, was a good friend of Mrs. McCoy and Mrs. Stone's friendship with Mrs. McCoy was renewed when she moved back.
"She was very attractive in every way," Mrs. Stone said. "She had an erect carriage, but was not snooty. She had the kindest, sweetest way, but was very much in charge. From her father and grandfather she inherited a sense of duty."
Mrs. McCoy was a vivacious woman who loved life and people and Walden's Ridge, according to Mrs. Stone and Walden Alderman Elizabeth Akins, who became a friend before Walden became a town. :"She loved the mountain people and rode her horse all around the mountain," Mrs. Stone said. "She was quite adventurous."
She loved animals and often fed homeless animals, Mrs. Akins said. She regularly fed wild animals, with foxes on one side of the house and racoons on the other, so they would not fight.
In a talk to the Signal Mountain Lions Club, Anne Huff said Mrs. McCoy was a champion of the Ridge and its people. She was well known for her historical sketches and talks in which her continuing theme was the community spirit and fellowship of all the inhabitants of Walden's Ridge, irrespective of town or county residence. Her passing marks the end of an era.
She modeled her father's innate, inflexible love of justice and sense of personal honor. While her social graces were refined, she demonstrated a humble spirit. She was generous in giving of her possessions and herself while she retained her own sense of strong personal identity. She was reared to serve others and was an active leader in the community. She served on the boards of Little Miss Mag Day Nursery, Girls Preparatory School, the Red Cross, Family Service Agency, volunteered at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute and was a member of First Presbyterian Church, the DAR and .the Colonial Dames of America.
Bachman Elementary School was named for the Senator and one day when she was writing a history of the school, Mrs. Akins had an interview with Mrs. McCoy. Mrs. Akins had also lived in Asheville before moving to Signal Mountain, so the two women soon became good friends.
When the town of Walden was incorporated, it had no funds and Mrs. McCoy sent a donation. "She was always interested in town affairs," Mrs. Akins said. "When we decided to build a Town Hall, we wanted to buy part of the McCoy property, but she refused., saying ‘You can't afford it.'"
Some years later the Town did purchase the old five-acre Miles homeplace, which she owned. Then in her will she gave the old McCoy home place and five acres around it to the Town and the option to buy the remainder of the property.
"Her daughter and three grandchildren had all moved away and did not intend to return, so they cooperated with her will," Mrs. Stone said.
In the will Mrs. McCoy specified that the property should be used for an arboretum, a public park or passive recreation. For years the Town had been setting aside money with which to buy the property upon her death and since the purchase the Town has been considering ways in which to use the property.
The mayor and aldermen thought this decision should be made by the citizens of Walden and so there have been discussions and visits to the property to make suggestions. Then the Town hired the landscape architecture firm Barge Waggoner Summer and Cannon Inc. to develop plans from suggestions submitted by the community in previous meetings. The blueprint developed includes plans for walking trails, community gardens and an arboretum.
The property includes 34 acres of land. Once a working farm, now consists of an apple orchard, wild flowers and woodland, the main house, a two-car garage with an apartment above, a tenant house, a smoke house, riding ring, party house, barn, corn crib, tool houses, equipment sheds, potting house and gardens.
An open house will be held Jan. 20 to seek community comments on how the Walden community will develop the Martha Bachman McCoy property at 1517 Anderson Pike across from St. Augustine Church. Whatever plan evolves will probably be carried out in phases, as money is available, Mrs. Akins said.
"She had a most charming funeral," Mrs. Stone said. "She had written her own service and set it at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. Everybody loved her and skipped church to come to the Forest Hills graveside. The service ended with a phrase she often used when it was time for a meeting to end: ‘It's time for you to go home now.'"