A Lengthy Hiatus

It’s been a long year to be sure, and I for one am ready for 2012 to be in the books and lost in the “discard” stacks.

Many apologies for the lack of blog posts over the past several months. When things go wrong in one’s personal life, many interests tend to fall by the wayside, and this blog was no exception. (In fact, I had started a modest blog on baseball card collecting on Jan. 31–another one of my passions–that was also a casualty in the wayside department.)  It’s been a trying year both personally and professionally. The company which I worked for folded early on, leaving me among the millions of other Americans seeking employment. Job opportunities in my fields of experience and interest have been few.

In the meantime, I started a small publishing business called BrayBree Publishing. In addition to reprinting my previous titles, I also published a well-researched book of local interest on the robbery of the Union Bank of Tennessee in Jackson and the murder of its clerk in 1859. It’s very much a niche company specializing in books on Tennessee history, so sales have been meager thus far.

Once I added some new material to a previously published biography of Adam Huntsman and republished it this fall, I found myself looking for a new writing project. I have a few different subjects in mind, but I haven’t fully committed to one yet.

I intend to write more posts about my writing projects, interests, and random musings as 2012 closes. There will be a few speaking engagements this winter and spring which I’ll announce in the coming weeks.  Thank you to everyone who has supported my books over the past year!


Adam Huntsman: The Peg Leg Politician Now Available

I am now accepting orders for my latest book, Adam Huntsman: The Peg Leg Politician! (This is a temporary ordering page until my official site redesign is complete.)

There are three ways to order:
(1) Order online through PayPal (to receive a signed copy)
**For a personalized signed book, please indicate during checkout**

(2) Order by mail–Please send a check or money order for $29.00 ($25.00 + $4.00 shipping) to:

McCann Publishing
204 Delaney Circle
Dickson, TN 37055
(**If you would like your signed book personalized, please indicate how you would like it to read**)
(3) Order online at Amazon.com (see left column of my blog)

Jackson Generals

I had the opportunity this past week to be given inside knowledge of the name change of the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx baseball club of the Double-A Southern League. I was sworn to secrecy, and I did my best to keep it to myself.

The team has gone back to its baseball roots and remade itself as the Jackson Generals.
I was excited when I heard about it. Eleven years ago, I published a book on the history of minor league baseball in my hometown entitled Jackson Diamonds: Professional Baseball in Jackson, Tennessee. In it, I chronicled each season, giving the reader an idea of its ebb and flow: how the team fared in the Kitty League pennant race, distinctive player performances and achievements, and lots of anecdotes. The Generals played in the Kitty League from 1935 to 1942, then came back from 1950 to 1954.
The Diamond Jaxx (now the Generals) allowed me to take part in the event and even sell a few books after the game. I had the chance to be interviewed by a local television station and radio station. And since the announcement was made, I’ve heard and read what local fans think of the new name. I was surprised with the loyalty some of them expressed for the Diamond Jaxx name. I never really warmed up to the nickname myself; it reminded me too much of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Some thought it had something to do with Jackson-Madison County General Hospital ( I had never thought of that one) or that it was taking the name of the local community college’s baseball team.
Many fans (especially those born after the Generals folded almost 60 years ago) have no clue what the new name means, or the history behind it. I would encourage every baseball fan in Jackson and West Tennessee to purchase a copy of my book. It’s really a fascinating history, if I do say so myself.

Happy Birthday, Adam Huntsman!

Adam Huntsman, the subject of my latest book project, would be 223 years old today.

I grew up in Jackson, Tennessee, where he lived the last 26 years of his life. He will always be best known as the man who beat David Crockett for Congress in 1835, which led Crockett to Texas and his heroic death at the Alamo. But there’s a lot more that should be known about this colorful and eccentric frontier lawyer and politician.

His most distinguishing feature was a wooden peg leg. He used the artificial appendage to his advantage during his legal and political career. When he delivered a speech, he would pound it on the floor to emphasize a point he was making. It was also a visiable reminder of the sacrifice he made for his country, much to the chagrin of his political opponents. How he lost the limb has been the subject of speculation for many years: Crockett claimed it was lost “in an [I]ndian fight during the last war,” implying that it happened during the Creek War or the War of 1812. I have my own theory that I will share in my upcoming book.

Huntsman was born in Charlotte County, Virginia on 11 February 1786. I’ve tried in my research to identify his parents, but the best I’ve come up with is circumstantial evidence that points to Adam Huntsman (senior) and Jeane Francis of Charlotte County. (I can’t even prove–aside from the fact that she had married a Huntsman–that they were even married.) It’s certainly one of the more frustrating aspects of the project.

He left Virginia for Knox County, Tennessee, settling there about 1809. He studied law under John Williams and obtained his license, but he never hung his shingle there. It may have had something to do with his paternity of an illegitimate daughter in 1811. He moved to Overton County and practiced law in that area of Middle Tennessee until 1823. During this time, he served three terms in the Tennessee state senate representing Overton, White, and Jackson counties.

By 1823, Huntsman was married to Sarah Wesley Quarles and had moved to Madison County, where he settled four miles east of Jackson in the Cotton Grove community. He practiced law and was engaged in various civic and business activities. In 1827, he was elected as West Tennessee’s first senator to the General Assembly and served one term. He later represented Madison County at the state constitutional convention in 1834.

Huntsman was a staunch supporter of President Andrew Jackson and the fledgling Democratic Party in Tennessee. He enjoyed the game of politics and played an active role in various campaigns in West Tennessee throughout the 1830s and 1840s. In 1835, he opposed incumbent congressman David Crockett’s re-election bid in a lively campaign pitting masters of the stump speech and tall tale telling. (Huntsman was regarded as the better speaker of the two.) Huntsman won the election by 2,000 votes and served one term in the 24th Congress (1835-37). He stepped aside rather than seek re-election: his opponent would have been John Wesley Crockett, a fellow attorney and eldest son of his former opponent.

Huntsman corresponded for 13 years with fellow Tennessean James K. Polk, an exchange of letters that continued into Polk’s presidency (1845-49). He was nine years older than Polk and acted as an advisor to him while he served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, governor of Tennessee, and president of the United States. Huntsman first met Polk while serving as a state senator and Polk was its clerk. When Polk received the Democratic nomination for president in 1844, Huntsman congratulated him in his own humorous way:

“I suppose miracles will not cease in the land. To have supposed it possible that such a Possum looking fellow as you were twenty five years ago, would ever have [been] nominated for President of the United States would have been deemed Quixotism[.] But so it is, and we must make the best we can out of you.”

Huntsman noted that three former presidents–George Washington, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson–had no children. If Polk were to win (he too had no children), Huntsman noted “the World will believe that the qualifications of an American President lies all in his head, and none in his Breeches.”

Adam Huntsman died at his home on present-day Cotton Grove Road near Jackson, Tennessee on the evening of Thursday, 23 August 1849. He was 63 years old.

My book project on the life and political career of Adam Huntsman will be published later this year. If you would like to be notified when it is available, please send me an email here.

Adam Huntsman’s 222nd Birthday

Today marks the 222nd birthday of Adam Huntsman, the man responsible for the legend of David Crockett at the Alamo.

Had the peg-legged lawyer and politician from Jackson, Tennessee not defeated him for re-election to Congress in 1835, Crockett would have returned to Washington and missed the Battle of the Alamo and the legendary stature that he enjoys today.

Huntsman was born today in Charlotte County, Virginia in 1786, six months and six days before his famous opponent. He lost his leg at some point during the War of 1812 and wore a wooden prosthesis the rest of his life. It added to his colorful character and emphasis to his speeches; while serving in Congress, he stomped it on the floor to make a point! “He was a man of great ability, fully equal to Crockett in native intellect, and much his superior in education and mental training,” recalled Peter H. Burnett, a Hardeman County, Tennesse resident and later the first governor of California.

In honor of Adam Huntsman’s birthday, I’ve created a new website at www.adamhuntsman.com

Village Inn is No More

Last week I learned that one of my favorite restaurants would be closing its doors.

Village Inn Pizza Parlor has been a fixture at 624 Old Hickory Blvd. in Jackson, Tennessee since it first opened in 1969. In the days before Domino’s and Pizza Hut began delivering pizzas to our doorsteps, kids from my generation in the 1970’s and 80’s went to Village Inn. When I read in the Jackson Sun that it would close on September 30, I knew I had the see the old place one more time.

Village Inn is just a year older than me. I remember how dark it used to be inside. Not scary dark; just dark with only the light from the Tiffany style lamps above the booths and tables illuminating the pizza slices in front of you. It was the place to have a birthday party and I went to lots of them as a kid. The first big screen television I remember was there, one of those front projection types. The pizzas were thin crust and handmade with generous toppings. Sometimes the crust would bubble and create a crispy void that was neat to bit into.

My family drove to Jackson to visit my parents and sisters and see my four-week-old nephew on Sunday. Before we left, we went to Village Inn one last time. The smell of pizza when we walked through the door brought back those memories. We sat in a booth and ordered a large pizza. I looked around the place; structurally it looked the same but the paint colors on the walls were different than I remembered. The darkness from my childhood had been illuminated with recessed lighting, but those distinctive Tiffany stained glass lamps with “Village Inn Pizza Parlor” in red letters were still there. There weren’t as many people there as I thought there would be in its final hour in business. Perhaps they had already been and taken their own memories with them.

The building will still be there and a restaurant–the Old Hickory Steakhouse–will be there in its place. But it won’t be Village Inn.

My wife asked me why I had never taken her there when we were dating in college. We spent many a night studying for exams at Dunkin‘ Donuts, but I never thought to take her next door for a slice of pizza. I suppose at the time it was a place I associated more with my childhood than a place for a date. I wasn’t too much into nostalgia at that point in my life. After I left home and came back to town, I would pass by it, thinking I should stop in sometime. But I never did.

There aren’t too many restaurants around anymore that are distinctively local and not a cookie-cutter franchise and have been around for close to 40 years. Village Inn was that kind of place in Jackson.

Like the three little pigs on the neon sign of The Hut on North Highland, it’s another icon from my childhood that is now gone.