Many of us, especially our younger generations, do not realize the ease and accessibility our modern world has provided. Yes, life naturally can still present challenges of its own. However, we are fortunate compared to the hardships of the past. Therefore, it is appropriate and even crucial to look back at the past to gain a new ap- preciation for what lies ahead. The Fayetteville Lincoln County Museum exists for this very reason; to help pre- serve history and convey the significance of the past. Dr. Ferris Beasley, the vice president of the museum’s board, says, “Maintaining a museum like this is important, to teach people where we came from. Most museums have just a few items, lots of bare space, and a write-up for each item. This museum is not like that. When it all came together in 1985, we called for people to bring their items, and we took them. Sometimes it’s a fine line between Fayetteville’s museum and Fayetteville’s attic, but all jokes aside, every item has a unique and signif- icant story to tell.”
The first unique thing about the museum is the building that houses it. The structure was an old milk factory called Borden Milk Plant. The industry came to Fayetteville from Cleveland, Ohio, in 1927 during the beginning of the depression. It was one of the first in- dustries that came to the South from the North. The plant purchased milk from local dairy farmers across five counties, helping spur our local economy and providing cash flow for farmers, possibly for the first time.
The floors are slightly slanted and built with glazed tile inside the museum. If you pay close at- tention while touring the museum you will see floor drains for draining excess milk, scattered throughout. After 40 years as a successful milk and butter plant, the Borden plant closed in 1967. Then, in 1987 the William R. Carter family donated the building to serve as a local museum for preserving history.
The Fayetteville Lincoln County Museum hosts several exhibits pertaining to Fayetteville’s daily life and history, including the second largest agricultural display in the state of Tennessee. In the massive room devoted to agricultural antiques, visitors will find toolsused over the years. Follow along and see how tools like the turn plow have improved and evolved over the trajectory of time. Walking through this room paints a tangible picture of what life might have been like within the early farming community.
Our team at Good News is especially fond of the exhibit that showcases a printing press from the 1800s. The work it took to manually place each type- set upside down and backward to print a letter or flyer is astonishing. You can almost hear the clickety-clack, clickety-clack on repeat. Nowadays, it is not uncom- mon to have 3D printers in the home. This printing press is just one of the few items that tell accounts of hard work and dedication by those who came before us.
Currently, Lincoln County and Fayette- ville combined have seven schools in the district. How many schools do you imagine this community had in the mid-1800s? Most people assume one school. However, schools back then had to be within walking distance. Additionally, most of the schools were one- room schoolhouses with a single teacher. Historians say there were closer to eighty schools in this area in the mid-1800s. There is a re-creation of an old one-room school- house at the museum, complete with desks and a potbelly stove.
One of Fayetteville’s very own, Admiral Frank Kelso, became the highest-ranking Naval officer that the nation has to offer. He was the 21st Naval Chief of Naval Opera- tions (CNO), meaning he was in charge of the entire Navy. President George Herbert Walker Bush appointed Kelso. During his time in the Navy, he played a role in devel- oping and testing nuclear submarines. As an engineer, Kelso was one of the crew mem- bers invited aboard the submarine that was driven to the North Pole. Those who had the pleasure of meeting Kelso, like Dr. Ferris Beasley, say he was an incredibly kind and humble man. Kelso has pictures with people such as Queen Elizabeth, Colin Powell, and Hillary Clinton. He was even Bush’s favorite golf partner, yet he was known to be more interested in you, than he was in sharing about or boosting up himself. Before he passed, he donated most of his Naval memorabilia, including his uniform, gifts, etc. It is an hon- or to have had him represent our community.
One exhibit memorialized Fayetteville’s first black doctor, Dr. L.M. Donalson. Donalson not only saved lives, but he changed them. In 1932, Donalson heard that Fayetteville did not have an African American doctor. In the segregated South, the closest hospital accessible for Af- rican Americans was 80 miles away. It has been told that Donalson arrived in Lincoln County with nothing but a medical bag filled with only a handful of medical supplies. His determination to care for and serve patients is what kept him going. After living here for a few years and be coming more acquainted, Donalson began appealing to churches and local leadership for help to found and build a black hospi- tal. With much effort, the hospital opened in 1936. The National Medical Association named him Practitioner of the Year in 1959 for his accomplishments — making him the first black doctor to receive the honor. Vis- itors should seize the opportunity to view historical medical equipment, including an exam table, x-ray machine, old medicine bottles, early hospital beds, incubators, a wheelchair, and more.
Can you imagine having a building fire only to see two men hustling down the street pushing a large wheel? That is an accurate depiction of what it was like in Fayetteville’s past. In fact, that is what made up Fayette- ville’s first fire engine. Not drawn by horses, but pulled by brave firemen! If there was a fire across town, someone was getting their exer- cise that evening! The museum has an old fire engine, fire suits, hoses, and more. -GN