|A morning fog lifted leaving billowing white clouds and a soft blue sky – a simply breathtaking view above the grand columns of the Rutherford County Courthouse.
As falling leaves rustled and scampered across the lawn leaving a blanket of crimson and russet, the rumbling sound of spring wagons loaded with tightly wrapped cotton bales could be heard in the distance.
“White Gold,” as it was called, the puffy white commodity was a huge cash crop, a bounty delivered in a favorable climate from a sturdy and industrious population.
In the 1920s, this agricultural product overshadowed other area communities.
While the conveyance paraded up West Main, the labored chuffing of mule teams blended with the sounds of neighborly conversation mostly farmers, businessmen and field hands. Such autumn beauty in a relaxed atmosphere of small town Murfreesboro was indeed a spectacle.
The processional turned the corner onto the Public Square rounding to the North Side, a likely gathering place where much commerce had occurred in the past including the buying and selling of slaves.
On the sidewalk nearby at Woolworth’s, a few ladies gathered greeting each other with smiles and hugs as they entered the store.
Field hands sat atop the bales, one the largest ever recorded in the county, all 1,130 pounds.
Indeed, a romantic scene revealed itself as the field hands continued to sing above the gathered crowd. How could they continue song and such melodious joy?
Every late fall, each one could be seen in the fields bent over, dragging their cotton bags as they picked in the hot dry autumn sun.
No doubt, clearly after the Civil War, the first signs of integration occurred in the cotton fields crossing generational, gender, social and racial barriers. Both whites and blacks had to pull together to harvest that most valuable crop – King Cotton.
Often white and black women could be seen helping each other with their babies and toddlers as they walked alongside their mothers in the fields perhaps each escaping to a nearby orchard to eat plums and nurse their young. Big dreams, small dreams such a marginalized existence – a field hand could work all day, every day from September through the fall for a penny a pound or about a dollar a day.
Cotton pickin’ produced achy backs and rough hands scarred by years of prickly bolls. But then the songs came from an attitude of accomplishment.
On Friday, Nov. 16 from 5-7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 17 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., a dynamic walking tour featuring the history of our vibrant Downtown will be provided by the Downtown Heritage Center and Shacklett’s Photography.
The walking tour given by MTSU history students is free to the public. Participants will start at Shacklett’s Photography.
Featured on the tour will be murals with historic photos of each side of the Square. These photos are from the Shacklett Photography Southern Heritage and Community Image Collection from the Rutherford County Archives.
In the midst of hectic moments of our electronic age, tour participants can return to a quieter time in our community through a virtual tour featuring unique stories and historic photographs.
Tour participants will learn fascinating stories about downtown including – the man in a derby hat, stiff collar and black hat who could not stop a motorcycle, the Po Boy restaurant with his loud speakers in the belfry of the Old City Hall, and of course, the tragic story of the “Human Fly.”
On display, will be a rare photograph taken in 1923 – “Cotton Days on the Square.” As we reminisce, this nostalgic event will launch and enhance the holiday Downtown experience.
Since 2006, the Downtown Heritage Center has provided visitors and locals alike with a variety of walking tours to further enrich their enjoyment of our downtown.
These fun-filled tours introduce the visitor to some of our city’s historic and cultural insights, and much, much more. Come and take one of our tours for a pleasurable, unique way to experience fantastic Downtown Murfreesboro.
For more information about the Downtown Walking Tour, call Shacklett’s Photography 615-893-2369 or the Downtown Heritage Center at 615-217-8013.