Recreation and Camping on the Caney
A new sound was heard on the Caney Fork
in March 1881 as engineer Eden Muzzy* pulled the whistle cord
on the first train to reach the Rock Island depot and the Caney Fork
River. A young McMinnville lawyer, Frank Spurlock, rode on the
rear platform of the train with two of his friends. (The line was
extended to Sparta in 1884.) This marked the beginning of a new
era as people could and did ride up on the morning train, enjoy a day of
fishing on the Caney Fork and return to McMinnville and other towns on
the afternoon train. Others enjoyed an all day picnic on the
Following the construction of the first
dam in 1915-16 and the creation of a beautiful lake, a number of summer
cottages were built in the area. W.T. Young, of A.J. Dyer in the
Nashville Bridge Company and Judge Dewitt of Nashville were among the
first to build near the mouth of the Collins River. After the Dam
was raised in 1923-25 many more families built along the Collins River.
Mr. Young sold his place and built a new house in an isolated bend of
the river above Reno Bridge. Like Daniel Boone he could not stand
being crowded in on all sides with neighbors.
The Power Company had two large houses on
the hill above the Dam. One, known as the Chattanooga house, was
used by groups from the Chattanooga office after the dam was raised.
During the construction period it was occupied by the company doctor.
The second house, called the Nashville House, was maintained by Mr.
J.P.W. Brown and used by his family and office groups from Nashville.
Most of the early travel was by train as the road were very bad until
1925. Mr. Brown broke all speed records in 1924 when he drove the
75 miles from Nashville to Rock Island in 5 hours.
About half the population was on hand at
the depot to meet the 8 P.M. train on Friday and Saturday to see who was
coming in for the week end. This was a part of Rock Island's
P.D. (Posey) Crawford, one of the
operators at the Power House lived in a Company house on the ridge
between the Power House and Intake. In the writer's opinion he was
the best fisherman, among many good ones, around Rock Island.
Regardless of the season he always knew where the fish were. The
writer has heard his wife say to P.D. when he got home in the afternoon,
"Posey will you get some fish for supper?" It was never very long
before he was back with a nice catch.
*Spelling from "McMinnville at a Milestone." The
writer believes it may have been "Mauzy," a prominent Warren County
The Webb Hotel
John Webb and his wife built a large
sandstone house on the road from the depot to the mouth of Collins River
and Dam. They added a large two story wing on the north side and
operated a popular hotel and boarding house for many years.
They entertained many people from Nashville on summer weekends.
Mrs. Webb was famous for the wonderful
food that she served. The tables were all filled for dinner on
Summer Sundays. Uncle Dave Macon, of Country Music fame, was a frequent
Sunday dinner visitor in the 1924-27 period.
The Webbs also operated a boat dock and
floating swimming pool at the East end of the bridge at the mouth of
Collins River. This was the first of the modern boat docks built
on the Caney Fork or any of its tributaries.
Camps and Parks
A number of family owned and group camps
were built on the upper Caney Fork, Collins River, Rocky River and
Barren Fork. The larger camps and two State Parks are listed
|Boy Scout Camp
- See Camp Boxwell.
|This camp was established and used by the
Scouts from Nashville and Middle Tennessee for many years.
It was established after the Great Falls Dam was raised and
was on the White County side of the river opposite Rock
Island (the island) and the mouth of Rocky River. The
property formerly belonged to Mr. Fielding Yost, one of the
group which pushed the development of the Great Falls
Project. It is an interesting area as it includes the
site of the Stone Fort, the Battle of Rock Island and a
dripping spring where Indians once camped and made arrow
heads and other stone implements.
reach the camp site turn right off of Hgw. 70S immediately
after crossing the Caney Fork River. Camp Boxwell
today, 1973, refers to the Scout Camp on Old Hickory Lake.
There has been some talk of using the area again as a
There was a group camp on the White County
side of the river a short distance downstream from the
Mitchell Bridge site which was used for one or two years.
This may have been used by the Scouts.
|Website editor's note:
This old camp was located at the Chattanooga
Ford, on the south end of the wire (swinging)
foot bridge at that site. In the 1950s it
was referred to by local people as the "old Boy
Scout camp," but was not in use at that time.
-Wayne Haston (who, as a kid, lived just east of
the Mitchell Bridge from about 1950 to 1953)
Fall Creek Falls State Park
|The Federal Government began the purchase
of land in 1935 and the WPA started construction of roads,
trails and other improvements in 1936. The Park is
located on the Cumberland Plateau and includes part of Fall
Creek and Cane Creek including the falls. It is
reached by way of Spencer or Pikeville. In the
beginning and for many years it was truly a wilderness area.
Improved roads, a lake, hotel, cottages and other
improvement were completed in 1972.
Girl Scouts from all parts of Tennessee had their summer
camps in the Park during the 1940s. It was also used
by other organized groups.
|See Fall Creek Camp above.
|This is a large private camp located on
the White County side of the Caney Fork River. It lies
between the river and Hgw. 70S about 1/2 mile East of
Walling. It is on or close to the first Webb School
Camp. The camp has been operating each Summer since
Island State Park
|Design of this park began about 1968 and
construction began within a couple of years. It
includes most of the land between the Collins River and the
Caney Fork beginning at the Collins River Bridge and
extending West to the Narrows and on into the area that was
once referred to as "Shake Rag." Improvements were
made along the left bank of both rivers west of the Narrows.
It includes a former Indian camp site. Several stone lined
Indian graves were found in the area. A few other
similar graves were uncovered in 1924 when the road was
graded to serve the summer homes built on the Collins River
behind the Webb Hotel.
|This camp started as a "summer school"
located near Walling and at or near the site of Hi-Lake
Camp. The camp was organized and run by Pros. W.R.
Webb and G.W. Follin of the famous Webb School at Bell
Buckle, Tennessee. The emphasis in the early days was
on Greek, Latin and Mathematics.
Over the first ten years the camp gradually changed form a
summer school to a recreational camp. At the end of the
period the camp was moved (between 1918 & 192) to the well
known site at Old Bailiff Ferry about 3 miles downstream
from the Power House by river and about 4 miles by road from
Walling Station. Permanent wood buildings were erected
at the new location. A large, cool spring provide an
ample water supply for the camp and for cold showers.
There was a small farm adjoining the camp.
Prof. Follin's son, Webb Follin, said that after a good rain
the boys would search the cultivated fields for Indian
relics. They found many different items which
indicated that the Indians must have camped in the area for
The Chattanooga Times of Sunday, June 23,
1935 carried a very fine article by Robert Sparks Walker
describing the camp area and many of nature's wonders to be
found in the vicinity of the camp. Venus Falls on
Barren Creek, across the river, was one of the spots the
boys liked to visit. Trips down the Caney Fork by
canoe were among the summers high lights. A truck met
the boys at Sligo and returned them to camp.
Webb Follin told the writer that their
family spend each summer at the camp till he was grown.
His mother looked after he diets provided in the dining
room. He said that the Jack Fish were native to the
Caney Fork and spawned each year close to the camp. He
noted that they are now referred to as Walleyes.
The camp was closed in 1939
|This camp, operated by the Nashville
YMCA, was located on the right side of the Collins River in
Warren County a little over a mile of sandy road from the
village of Campaign. By river it was about half way
between the Power House Intake and the old Flat Shoals Ford.
It was on a level area, about 100 feet above the reservoir
level in a grove of pine trees. It included a number
of permanent wood buildings.
built some time after the first dam was constructed, was
operating during the 1920's and early 30's but has been
closed for a number of years.
John Officer -
John Officer, who lived in McMinnville
opposite the Old Cemetery, was one of Rock Island's best known fishing
guides for more than 25 years. He died in 1955. Fred Russell
in his Banner Column "Sidelines" quoted Sam Grissom, Rock Island store
keeper, on John's death. "Died right on the fishing dock, where he
had spent thousands of happy house," Sam said. "John was one of
nature's noble persons."
The Rev. C.B. Smith, pastor of the First
Methodist Church in McMinnville, wrote the following poem and read it as
the close of one of his sermons shortly after John Officer's death.
The Big Fisherman turned in
his tackle today,
and pushed the boathouse off the shore -
He heard the Master of all good fisherman say;
"John, you'll not be going out anymore."
Then he pillowed his head on
the deck of the dock,
To sleep with the things he loved the best.
They had sustained him in life like a sheltering rock:
And in death they were his haven of rest.
They belonged to each other -
Big John and the lake,
Also the tackle, the boats - and the baits,
And they were left there together for old times sake
Another whole day before he entered the Gates.
When friends finally found
him and took him home,
It was like taking a child from his toys to bed,
Who slept among them as he played all alone -
And never really knew when the long day had fled.
John loved his friends like
he loved the lake -
The Lassings, the Montgomerys, the Hunts and the Hills,
And these ties of friendship can nevermore break;
They are sealed in their hearts, their minds and their
And, there surely is, somewhere, an Evening Lake,
With Permanent Camps under cloudless blue skies;
Where old friends meet and new plans make
For the Day that never ends and a Love that never dies.
Fred Russell included the poem in his
column in the Nashville Banner some time after John's death