©Voice, August 2005
Shelbyville, Tennessee rests nestled among some of the most beautiful hills and farmland this country has to offer. Not only does it sit in the heart of walking horse country, it also lays in an area rich with history, culture, and art. Every visitor to Shelbyville should take a little time out to tour the scenic landscapes and quaint burgs surrounding the “Walking Horse Capital of the World.” There are three towns in particular that every visitor to Middle Tennessee should not miss.
Incorporated in 1856, Bell Buckle was once a major stockyard on the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad. It boasted a population near 1,000 and was a bustling community supporting a myriad of businesses. In the late 1880s, Civil War veteran and North Carolina educator William R. “Sawney” Webb established the Webb School in Bell Buckle. Today, the Webb School continues to be a prestigious private boarding and day school with an international student body.
The Great Depression of the 1920s devastated the Bell Buckle railroad trade and the town declined. By the 1960s the downtown area had suffered the dilapidation of many railroad stops. Long neglected, many of the commercial buildings were boarded up and in disrepair. Fortunately in the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a quickening of appreciation for small-town American heritage. This renewed interest spurred a wave of rentals, purchases, and renovations that have made Bell Buckle the destination it is today.
In 1976, the Bell Buckle downtown and the Webb School were listed on the National Register of Historic Places and by the 1980s many of the Victorian and Arts and Crafts style homes were restored or renovated.
While in Bell Buckle, be sure to stop by the Bell Buckle Cafe for some down home country cooking and live music. Also check out the town’s many antique and curio shops and the Blue Bird Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor.
Not only is Lynchburg the home of the Nation’s oldest registered distillery, Jack Daniel’s, it is also a walk back through time. This town of 361 boasts several historic points of interest, shopping, music, and unique eateries.
Established in 1866, Lynchburg is the county seat for Moore County, Tennessee. The county courthouse, built in 1883, is beautifully maintained and very much worth visiting. Lynchburg is home to numerous quaint shops featuring everything from Jack Daniel’s memorabilia, to Civil War antiques, to handicrafts of all types. Just off the town square you’ll find the Moore County Historical Museum, which is operated out of the old Moore County Jail. If you’re looking for a truly unique dining experience that combines great food with history, you might want to try Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House. Started as a traveler’s hotel back in 1867, it is now one of the premier eating establishments in Middle Tennessee. Miss Bobo’s serves only midday meals and seating is by reservation only (931-759-7394).
No trip to Lynchburg would be complete without a stop at the above-mentioned Jack Daniel’s distillery. The distillery has a modern visitors center with interactive kiosks that allow visitors to explore the history and future of Tennessee’s most famous export. The distillery also features free tours that take visitors through every stage of the whiskey making process.
Of course, for the walking horse enthusiast, Lynchburg’s most important attraction is the Tennessee Walking Horse Museum. Located on the square,
the museum features exhibits on nearly every aspect of the history of the Tennessee Walking Horse.
Known as “The Cradle of the Tennessee Walking Horse,” Wartrace was a focal point in the development of our breed. Before that, however, it was another bustling depot town on the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad. For a time in the late 19th century, it was also a known as a health resort with healing sulphur springs and wells. In its heyday, Wartrace boasted five banks and two large flourmills. The railroad dispatched up to thirteen mainline passenger trains per day through town with the first class Dixie Flyer carrying well-heeled travelers between Chicago and Miami in plush parlor cars.
Wartrace was home to a number of the founders of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed, most notably Henry Davis, Albert Dement, and Floyd Carothers. In addition to training and showing Strolling Jim, the very first World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse, Floyd Carothers was the proprietor of Wartrace’s railroad hotel, dubbed The Walking Horse Hotel. In his later years, Strolling Jim was stabled behind the hotel and when he passed away in 1954 he was buried there. Today, The Walking Horse Hotel features twelve guest rooms and the Strolling Jim Restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays and for lunch only on Sundays. Strolling Jim’s grave behind the hotel is marked by a beautiful head stone.
In addition to the hotel, Wartrace features several antique and collectible shops, two restaurants offering country cooking, and a number of beautifully restored homes and churches. A “Walking Tour of Historic Homes and Buildings” brochure is available at local shops and eateries. Wartrace was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the mid 1990s.
© 1996-2008 Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association. All Rights Reserved.