A driving tour through the communities of southern Giles County, Tennessee
Elkton has always been a closely knit community, where people know and depend upon one another. Residents would meet on Highway 32, or the Bee Line Highway, and in the shops of downtown. One resident recalls Elkton in the Mid-Twentieth Century as, “a booming little place.” Indeed, groceries, taverns, barber shops, a cotton gin, an ice skating rink, a bus station, and fraternal lodges were all located in Elkton and provided for the everyday and recreational needs of the community.
Religion, as is evident through the many churches and cemeteries dotting the landscape, serves an important role in both the social and spiritual life of the community. Along with regular services, churches host vacation bible schools and community suppers. A congregation may move from one building to another, but cemeteries remain in place, sometimes falling into disrepair. Recent efforts to restore local cemeteries have revealed more graves than previously suspected.
As the only paved road in town for many years, Highway 31 dominates any resident’s reminiscences of Elkton. Stretching from Michigan to Florida, Highway 31 was nationally significant. For residents of Elkton, it brought trade and traffic through town and connected the city to other towns in Giles County, such as Pulaski and Ardmore, and metropolitan areas like Nashville and Huntsville.
The Elkton way of life is based on rural values and small town traditions. Hard work, in the store, home, field, or classroom, is a defining characteristic. Neighborliness is an admired trait. The seasons pass with predictable regularity, each bringing reason to celebrate. Elkton now enjoys harmony among the races, but segregation remains a difficult past to accept.
Photos & Stories
Elkton’s Main Street area has changed over the years. Here are descriptions of the large and well stocked Elkton Home and Farm Store, the frigid, musty ice skating rink, and the Woodmen’s barbecues. Forrest Bates describes the Elkton of the past as “a pretty booming little place,” where revelers could “dance on the top of the roof” of a tavern, according to Ann Smith.
Elkton Cotton Gin
Woodmen World Building
Elkton Farm Store
Old Hide-A-Way Lounge
Post Office & City Hall
Eva Claire Smith, Farm Home Store
Eva Claire Smith, Skating Rink
Virginia Harwell, Beer Garden Segregation
Virginia Harwell, Beer Garden Ridgeway Tavern
Eva Claire Smith, Cake Walks, Woodmen
Forrest Bates, Businesses
Forrest Bates, Cotton Gin
Forrest Bates, Woodmen of the World
Ann Smith, Farm Home Store
Ann Smith, Old Skating Rink
Ann Smith, Dancing Roof
Ann Smith, Stores
Ann Smith, Woodmen
Doug Turner, Woodmen
Doug Turner, Hauling Corn Gin
Doug Turner, Elkton Business, Woodmen
Doug Turner, Churches Tavern
Roosevelt Whitfield, Old Stores, Cutting Baloney
Roosevelt Whitfield, Woodmen
Frances Suddarth, Beer Taverns
Lagatha Paysinger, Barber Shop
Virginia Harwell, Downtown Businesses
Virginia Harwell, Farm Home Store
ELKTON CHURCHES & CEMETERIES
Churches played an important part in the life of the Elkton Community. There are numerous small cemeteries in the Elkton area. Virginia Harwell tells of a cemetery that is almost destroyed and George Newman reports on efforts to preserve several graveyards.
Elkton Methodist Church
Elkton Baptist Church
Gerald Smith, Cumberland Cemetery
Harwell & Smith, Cumberland Cemetery
Elkton Baptist, 1947
Congregation, Elk River
Ann Newton, Elkton Churches
Virginia Harwell, Cumberland Presbyterian Cemetery
William Suddarth, Rural Community
William Suddarth, The Call, Elkton Baptist
TRANSPORTATION IN ELKTON
Highway 31, or the Bee Line Highway, was the main North-South route before the interstate was built. Highway 31 went through the center of town and in front of the Elkton School. Riding the bus, catching a ride with someone else, walking and horseback riding were all common means of transportation.
Hwy 31, Main Street
Hwy 31 Bridge, Methodist Church
Wagon, Sury Beaty
Vivian Roland, No Street Lights
Vivian Roland, Ooh This is Really Tennessee
Bob Swinea, Hitchhiking
Bob Swinea, Hitchhiking Continued
Eva Claire Smith, Bus Ride Nashville
Bob Swinea, High School, Pulaski
Forrest Bates, Walking, Hitchhiking
Ruth Mitchell, Horseback Rides
Agnes Bridgeforth, Bus Ride
Beverly McGee, Catching Bus, Pulaski
Vivian Roland_Old Hwy 31
ELKTON WAY OF LIFE
Elkton residents remember both good times and bad, and comment on the changes time has made in the community.