Babcock trestle

By 1917 this railroad trestle across Little Tennessee River from Monroe County (other side) provided Babcock Lumber Co. with rail access for its timber in remote north Monroe County to the Carolina Southern track on this Blount County side of the river. This made it practical for Babcock to log 56,000 acres from the remote Jeffery’s Hell to its new mill in Alcoa. Piers are still visible from U.S. 129 to Calderwood.

To complete Blount County’s early railroad history, in 1907 Tennessee and Carolina Southern built a line south from Maryville to the Little Tennessee River then up along the river to Chilhowee. In a rush effort in 1915, it was extended to Calderwood to facilitate construction of ALCOA’s Cheoah, Santeetlah and Calderwood dams.

A major stop on the line was Montvale Station, just south of Maryville, near Carpenters Campground. At that point, horse drawn, and later motor vehicles, from Montvale Hotel met guests and took them to the hotel.

Babcock Lumber Co., who had a major sawmill at its Alcoa headquarters and at Tellico Plains with national headquarters in Pittsburgh, encountered a problem with its very major logging operation in Monroe County. Much of the timber on the large Citico Creek area in northern Monroe County was most difficult to transport to the Tellico mill. As a result, it built a rail trestle across the Little Tennessee River at the Babcock siding on the Chilhowee extension. This permitted the movement of logs via rail from 56,000 acres in Jeffery’s Hell to the Alcoa sawmill. Babcock had established the Vose area on 350 acres of land it had bought before ALCOA decided to establish the city of Alcoa.

Residents familiar with street names will note those in the Vose area are all named for trees.

In 1916, Babcock began construction of a modern sawmill, planing mill, dry kiln, machine shop, commissary, recreational facilities and erected 200 modern dwellings in Alcoa. Clarence L. “Squire” Babcock was in charge of the operations in Alcoa. He served as its first mayor in 1919 at the same time his older brother, Edward Vose Babcock, founder of the company, was serving as mayor of Pittsburgh. Vose was their mother’s family name.

In 1907, the Tennessee and Carolina Southern was extended south of Maryville and eventually to Calderwood. An Oct. 1, 1922, Tennessee and Carolina Southern time table for that train listed Montvale, Mint, Chotah, Alleghaney, Sunline, Tallassee, Chilhowee and Calderwood. Flag stops were McKelder, Sparkhill, Bacon’s Ferry, Babcock and Wilham. One-way time for the 30.7-mile trip usually ran between one hour and 15 minutes and one hour and 25 minutes. It was covered at average speeds of 22 to 24 mph. Fare was not listed.

The line south of Maryville was discontinued in 1932. Service from Maryville to Townsend was discontinued in 1940 after the last load of logs left in 1939. Southern has since removed all but about 700 yards of its rails in Maryville. Its only Maryville rails are from the overpass on East Broadway, beneath the bridge on East Harper Avenue, then parallel to Wright Road to the Alcoa city limits.

In 1901, Louisville and Nashville (L&N) completed its Knoxville to Atlanta line through western Blount County, Louisville and Friendsville. When it was re-routed in 1906, a branch was built into Maryville. That branch and the L&N Depot adjacent to The Daily Times were removed in the early 1970s to make way for the Bicentennial Greenbelt.

To omit the Hoods in local railroading would be an incomplete story.

Pete was the son of a prominent family of Gen. Robert N. Hood, attorney and president of the Knoxville and Augusta, Ga., Railroad.

His grandfather, Francis Marion Hood (1815-1881), a tailor, at one time managed the popular Verandah Hotel which was located on the present site of Broadway Methodist Church. In some records, the Francis was mistakenly listed as Frank. A Blount County trustee, he is buried at the New Providence Presbyterian Cemetery at the corner of South Cates Street and West Broadway.

Pete’s father, Gen. Robert Nathaniel Hood (1844-1892), enlisted in the Union Army at age 16, serving as a first lieutenant and captain. In 1870-72, he was city of Maryville recorder, a leading attorney and served as mayor in 1876-77. He practiced law in Knoxville. Gov. James Davis Porter appointed him Tennessee Adjutant General and Tennessee Attorney General, resulting in his being referred to as “General.”

General Hood was president of Farmers Bank, established in Maryville in 1882, and later established Third National Bank in Knoxville, serving as its president until his death at age 48. Death came at the peak of his career and was attributed to overwork.

Pete was a first cousin of John William Hood Sr., a well known Blount resident of recent years. John was chief metallurgist for the entire ALCOA organization. John W. Sr. also had a son and son-in-law who were in key ALCOA management positions.

As was pointed out in “Volume IV of Snapshots of Blount County History” which I wrote for The Daily times in 2008, Pete was a child of Gen. Hood’s first wife. Having worked in all phases of the railroad operation, upon his father’s death, Pete succeeded him as president of the Knoxville and Augusta Railroad.

Pete was a prominent farmer, local businessman and very eligible bachelor. To fully appreciate the significance of his role in the community at that time, one must realize that other than for a few automobiles , people and freight moved almost entirely by train, if not by horseback or on foot. This made the role of railroad superintendent one of the most important in town.

He owned a 183-acre farm on what is now Westwood Drive just east of Old Niles Ferry Road. The elaborate house he built there about 1913 is a very desirable residence today. An indication of its quality are its floor joists of near rot-proof cypress.

A friend of Maryville College, he donated to it. He had an eye for the ladies and liked to date the young instructors at the college. One of these was Lela W. Perine who taught music at the college and set to music the college’s alma mater.

Between 1900 and 1910, he built what is known today as the outstanding Glascock house across from Maryville High. A mansion in its day, the beautiful woodwork is “before the worms” quarter-sawed chestnut to best display the wood grain. He personally supervised the sawing at Little River Lumber Co. in Townsend and brought it home on the train. Custom made stain windows are included in the upstairs walk-in closets.

It is written “he raised chickens,” a polite way in that day of referring to the highly valued gamecocks which he raised. On Aug. 31, 1927, at about 58 years and while making his third attempt to catch one of his “prized” chickens in a tree, he fell to the ground, breaking his neck. Despite the efforts of a bone surgeon brought from Atlanta, he died Sept. 13.

The funeral was held at his Westwood house and pallbearers were like a list of Who’s Who in East Tennessee: The president of Southern Railway; Col. W. B. Townsend, Blount Countian Ben A. Morton who was mayor of Knoxville, Maryville Mayor A. K. Harper, founder Jo Burger of Bank of Maryville, I. G. Calderwood who built key section of railroad and ALCOA executives A. D. Huddleston, E. M. Chandler, and C. A. Murray. He was buried next to his father in Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville.

Friends reported that at least two ladies attending his funeral stood crying, saying they were to marry Pete.

Dean Stone is opinion editor of The Times.

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