Preserving the Past
As Published in the Daily News Journal, Sunday, November 1, 2009
Daniel was into genealogical research before it was cool. That
desire to delve into the past fueled the writing, compilation and
editing of numerous books, work that required years of tedious
Daniel’s efforts have been recognized on the local and state level
while also leading to establishment of a Rutherford County Archives.
Most recently, she and Frank Caperton, members of the Rutherford
County Historical Society, completed a book, “Pictures and the
Stories They Tell,” a compilation of some 800 Rutherford County
Daniel sat down with The DNJ to discuss her efforts to preserve and
Q: How did you develop such a strong interest in history and
Daniel: I was a history of art major, and I was more interested in
the art side of history, but I have always been interested in all
facets of history, and in 1968 I was bored to death raising a
1-year-old and I just needed something. We were living in Arlington,
Va., at the time, and they had a continuing education program and
one of the courses was genealogy … I took the course, and the bug
bit. I was lucky because we were in Arlington, and I had access to
the Library of Congress, the DAR Library, National Archives, and
this is where most of the key research was done. I would spend
Saturdays at the Library of Congress, me and a whole bunch of
bearded, old fogeys.
That’s what it was like back in those days. People weren’t doing
genealogy. It was just on the cutting edge of starting and I kept
doing it over the years.
Q: You moved here in ’74. Do you feel like you fell into somewhat of
a gold mine of history in this area?
Daniel: Middle Tennessee is marvelous because it didn’t open up
until after the Revolutionary War. I think we have something like
Revolutionary War soldiers buried in this county, and that doesn’t
count a lot of them who came through and left.
… This book (“Cemeteries and Graveyards of Rutherford County,
Tennessee) shows a lot of the people who came and left, some stayed,
some didn’t. There are over 6,800 names in here of people who were
somehow or other connected with Rutherford County, and I enjoyed
Q: Let’s talk a little bit about the new book. How did that all come
Daniel: The country’s bicentennial started gearing up about 1974,
and this county also started gearing up to celebrate the country’s
bicentennial. Dr. Robert Corlew was named head of the Bicentennial
Commission. And the commission … hired Helene Colvin, who is a
resident here, and she took pictures, just scads and scads,
something like 800 pictures of Rutherford County, of places, of
houses, of businesses, people, just about anything and everything. …
They were all on slides. I knew about them because I was in the
(Historical) Society at the time and knew this was happening, and I
was a part of the Bicentennial Celebration. …
Thirty years later, about 2006, 2007, apparently these slides had
been made into boxes of Kodak carousels, there were eight of them,
and they’d been set for shows for children at elementary schools,
and they were set up as houses of Main Street, businesses of
Rutherford County, the northern part of Rutherford County, the
southern part, different sections, and they had a script the teacher
could read. I don’t know when they stopped doing it, but somehow it
all got stored at Linebaugh Library, and nobody had talked about it
in years. I knew about it and Linebaugh contacted me. They were
cleaning out one of their closets and came across the slides and
(asked) if I knew anything about it and would I be interested and
the society be interested in getting it back. They were not sure
they could continue to house them, and that’s when I approached the
historical society and I suggested we protect the slides by making
them pictures and maybe publishing the pictures in a book, and Steve
Cates said, “Yes, let’s do that.” He made the motion and the society
went along with it.
Q: It took some doing to turn them into pictures didn’t it?
Daniel: We had to transfer the slides into digitized pictures … so
Bill Jakes said he would do this. He had the equipment to do it, but
he ran out of time; it was a very tedious job. There were a lot of
these slide, so the society hired a young man who was a school
teacher, and he was free that summer; I think it was 2007, and he
digitized all of them.
Q: Where did you go once you got all the stuff together?
Daniel: Frank Caperton came forward. He’s a member of the society
and he also keeps our website for us. Frank said he would like to
take it over … so we started working on it, and we began to see it
needed to be expanded because we had these pictures of 1974. Then we
started finding pictures of the same houses, some of them even
earlier than that. He started taking pictures himself of the same
places but what had changed. There’s things like the Polk Hotel that
was torn down in ’76, but Helen has a picture of it that she had
taken. It’s things like that. There are a lot of houses that are
gone that were in place at that time; the Faircloth house is a
Q: What was your role? Did you do quite a bit of the research on the
Daniel: Frank and I both did the research on things. He would find
pictures or information about a family that was connected to a house
or a business, and I did the research on that, but my thing was
mostly editing. He would do a page, then he would send it to me and
I would edit it, correcting grammar or wrong dates, basically just
editing. I also did a lot of encouraging, because it would get
shelved for a while, because he was busy doing other things, and I’d
just keep saying, “Let’s keep going.
I want to get it out.” We tried to get it finished last year, but it
just didn’t come together.
But this year, we aimed to get it out by October so people could buy
it for Christmas presents. I really think it’s a good book.
Q: So there are quite a few things in there that no longer exist?
Daniel: Oh yes. There’s a whole section of Old Jefferson (near
Smyrna) and the houses that were at Old Jefferson. … for instance,
the Old Jefferson Hotel. Most of those came from Toby Francis; Toby
grew up in Old Jefferson. The interesting thing is the water didn’t
cover Old Jefferson at all. They tore all these beautiful places
down, and they could have left them all (when Percy Priest Lake was
formed). There’s a picture right there of Old Jefferson, and it’s
high and dry. … Ernie Johns is the county historian and he has been
more important in all of these publications than even me.
He’s encouraged and supported in every way possible, everything I’ve
done, so I really count him as my alter ego in some ways (laughing).
Q: You received the Tennessee Historical Commission’s Certificate of
Merit in 2007.
How did that make you feel?
Daniel: Small. There are a lot of very famous people who’ve received
the same honor and I have Ernie Johns to thank for that. He proposed
me and wrote it up for the Tennessee Commission. He also was the one
who proposed me for the Lifetime Achievement Award for Community
Service, which I just got … and he deserves it more than I do in
Q: Didn’t you play a fairly big role in trying to get the county
records into a county archives. What did that entail?
Daniel: 1977, ’78, I was doing research for someone and came across
more than a thousand original wills, written in the handwriting of
the time, not a clerk’s handwriting. These were handwritten wills
with the actual signatures, actual pieces of paper. Most of them
were in very poor condition. They had been folded up and had been
placed in these 10-cent store envelopes that were not acid-free, and
the acids they used in the envelopes were eating away at these old,
old records. Our county goes back to 1803, and in some cases those
wills had been written before that time, but they weren’t filed or
probated until after we became a county. Sonny Elam was the county
clerk at the time, and I said, “Sonny, we need to do something about
these.” He said, “You have my good wishes, whatever you want to do.”
… We have the wills back here. We have copies the public uses, so
nobody handles the old wills unless there’s an absolute reason for
handling the originals. That led me to finding all kinds of stuff
being stored hither and yon, everywhere … this was the transition
period when they were building the Judicial Building, and I was
asked in, I think John Mankin was (mayor) of the county at that
time, and he suggested I be part of the committee … and (I )
suggested that we have an archives because we were one of the oldest
counties in the state and we had good records and even though those
nasty people from the North during the Civil War defaced a lot of
our records, left a lot of graffiti on them, we still had them.
That was the miracle, for a lot of the counties in Middle Tennessee
don’t have their records from that period. So I began pushing for an
archives … and they decided we would have one for the new Judicial
Building. Well, that fell by the wayside as it was completed. They
did give us a place to put things in the Courthouse. Long story
short, we’ve been pushing for an archives since the late ’70s, and
at every turn I kept pushing for it and kept it in everybody’s mind.
… We finally got our archives (in August 2006), and the county hired
John Lodl for archivist, and he is ideal for the position. He’s
well-trained and knows what he’s doing, yet he’s a very easy-going
person to get along with and I think he gets along with just about
everybody. These officeholders can be difficult at times, yet he
manages to smooth things through.
Q: I think you told me at one time there were a bunch of county
records that were stored somewhere underneath the street on the
Daniel: Yes. Going back, the County Court moved into the old bank
building on the corner of the square next to the Judicial Building
and they were storing records in the old bank vault and they were
also storing the records down under the bank building, which went
into the street, and if you go down those stairs into the dungeon
under the bank building, there’s a water main (or) sewer that goes
through there, and it was all dark down there … and there were a
tremendous amount of the county records being stored in the dirt
Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Daniel: I think the history of Rutherford County is important. These
people who originally came here really had some gumption to survive.
They ran into Indians. … There were people here all during the
1790s; Capt. William Lytle (founder of Murfreesboro) came in the
1790s and his family. They ran into Indians, there are stories that
there was a death from Indian slaughter every 10 days in this Middle
Tennessee area for a long time. Just think of Middle Tennessee and
the difficulties they faced. Ticks … and the underbrush, imagine
going through the cedar underbrush which is so typical in our
county. And there’s a lot of rock, they had to move rock, and there
are some beautiful stone fences throughout Rutherford County. … I
think they were probably built by slaves. … They were well-kept
places and they were proud of them, and this picture book shows some
beautiful places that go way back. It was difficult living here, and
I think the women particularly were very strong, and they had a lot
of children year after year after year, and some of the men went
through three or four wives because of the difficulty of child
There’s a tie, there’s a feeling of immortality when you research
these people and go from generation to generation, and I wish people
would care enough about their forbears and what they meant to them.
I mean you wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for your forbears. I
didn’t come from here, but I came here just like these people did
200 years ago. I came to find a home and so I feel like I connect
with the early people as much as anybody else, even though I’m a
— Sam Stockard, 615-278-5165