Demolition Project On Walnut Street Turns Up Documents From City's Earliest Days

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 - by John Wilson
Original Title Guaranty building on Walnut Street is at the left. This is where historic papers were found.
Original Title Guaranty building on Walnut Street is at the left. This is where historic papers were found.
- photo by Will Stokes

A demolition project on Walnut Street has unexpectedly turned up documents from Chattanooga's earliest days.

Rob Bentley, a young man who has developed a love for Chattanooga's history, said he got a call from his friend Robert Parks about the discovery.

His company, T. U. Parks, is doing the demolition and build-out of the former Elks Building at Walnut and Seventh and the small adjacent former Title Guaranty and Trust building.

Mr. Bentley, who works at the venerable Chattanooga firm of T.T. Wilson and Company, said, "When they were demoing the old vault the workers found the old documents. Robert went to look at them and a check made out to T.T. Wilson was on top of the pile so he called me to let me know what he had found.

"I asked him if they would stop the demo of the vaults so i could come take a  look at the papers. By the time I got to the job site some of the documents had already been thrown into the dumpster and destroyed.

"I loaded up all the documents I could save out of the dumpster and the ones not yet thrown away into my truck. I went home and organized them the best I could."

The cache included many other checks to pioneer Chattanooga businesses.

Some of the documents date to before the Civil War.

The retrieved items included a book of old documents related to the Samuel Williams family, who were among the earliest Chattanooga settlers. Their home place was near the present Baylor School. 

Mr. Bentley later met with Sam Hall, who has been saving thousands of old Chattanooga photos and documents through his Deepzoom Chattanooga website.

Mr. Hall was excited about the find and has begun scanning the documents. He plans to make all available for public view, including the interesting Williams papers.

Some of the documents bear the signature of H.C. Beck, one of the founders of Title Guaranty and Trust. The title company later built a much-larger headquarters next door. Both are directly across from the County Courthouse.

Through the years, the upstairs portion of the initial Title Guaranty building was rented to attorneys, including Lewis Coleman, a protoge of Coca Cola bottling magnate Jack Lupton. It is believed that the papers that were located were from one of the attorneys renting the upstairs office or from the Title Guaranty operation itself.

Later the small building was merged with the Elks Building next door. The county named the pair of buildings the Mayfield Annex. The county in recent years vacated the buildings and they are being renovated by Lamp Post Properties, which has been restoring several downtown historic buildings for new uses.

Sam Hall said he is always on the lookout for such historic objects that may still be tucked away in attics or basements.

He said, "Please don't throw them away as they have a lot of meaning to me and other Chattanooga history lovers. If you do come upon old Chattanooga pictures or documents and have a thought of tossing them, instead contact me at samhall@chattanoogatn.biz or John Wilson at news@chattanoogan.com or 266-2325."

Some of the documents are already available for viewing at http://deepzoomchattanooga.com/bpoe

Becks founded Title Guaranty
Becks founded Title Guaranty

Election Officials Clarify Who Is Eligible To Vote In City Council, District 8, Run-Off

Distillery Manager James O. Martin Had Long Tenure On Cameron Hill's Cedar Street

3 Arrested After Evading Police And Crashing Vehicle


Officials at the Hamilton County Election Commission issued a reminder that only City Council District 8 residents under the lines drawn back in 2011 are eligible to vote in a run-off on Sept. ... (click for more)

James O. Martin was an early resident of Cameron Hill in a frame house at 310 Cedar St. Afterward, he was able to build a fine home down the street at 617 Cedar. Martin was born in Meigs County ... (click for more)

Three people were arrested Tuesday afternoon after evading police and crashing their vehicle. At 12:26 pm, Chattanooga Police responded to a single-vehicle crash. A Police Traffic unit ... (click for more)



Breaking News

Election Officials Clarify Who Is Eligible To Vote In City Council, District 8, Run-Off

Officials at the Hamilton County Election Commission issued a reminder that only City Council District 8 residents under the lines drawn back in 2011 are eligible to vote in a run-off on Sept. 15. It pits Marie Mott versus interim Councilwoman Marvene Noel. Officials said, "Only voters who reside in City Council District 8 are eligible to participate in the Sept. 15 ... (click for more)

Distillery Manager James O. Martin Had Long Tenure On Cameron Hill's Cedar Street

James O. Martin was an early resident of Cameron Hill in a frame house at 310 Cedar St. Afterward, he was able to build a fine home down the street at 617 Cedar. Martin was born in Meigs County in 1858. He arrived in Chattanooga in 1882 and became a key figure at Elijah Betterton's distillery. He was also a large shareholder in the Chattanooga Casket Company and the Tennessee ... (click for more)

Opinion

Our Safety Is Gone - And Response

Sad news seeing a person was murdered at the Rosemont Apartment. We lived on Oak Street across the street from the then named Glenwood Apartments from 1953 to 1956. I spent many a day there as there were probably 100 school age kids who lived in the units. In those days, parents simply let their kids roam the neighborhood with no worry for their safety. Now adults can't walk ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Avoid Electric Cars Like The Plague

A Friday article on Chattanoogan.com read in part: “Chattanooga will be home to the nation’s largest electric vehicle ‘living testbed,’ thanks to $9.2 million in funding for a project proposed by the city and scientists at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with municipal, private industry and research partners. Funding will come from a $4.5-million U.S. Department ... (click for more)

Sports

Bradley's Rhyne Howard Is 2022 WNBA Rookie Of The Year

One minute she is leading the Kentucky women’s basketball team to a historic Southeastern Conference Tournament title and the next she is being crowned the 2022 Associated Press WNBA Rookie of the Year. Rhyne Howard, the Atlanta Dream’s 2022 WNBA No. 1 Draft Pick, has been selected as the league’s rookie of the month for four straight months – May through August – en route ... (click for more)

Former Bradley Central Star Bob Johnson Labeled "Ruler Of The Jungle" By Bengals

Last year the Cincinnati Bengals began the first drive of the 54 th season with a simple snap of the ball in honor of its first player ever drafted by team owner Paul Brown. Bob Johnson wore No. 54 on the back of his Bengal jersey for 12 years. Johnson won All-State honors at Bradley Central. He was named All-SEC and was an All-American for Coach Doug Dickey at Tennessee. He ... (click for more)