Story Mapper

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

Jump to:
Elkton Business
Elkton Churches & Cemeteries
Transportation in Elkton
Elkton Way of Life


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

Cotton Gin

Downtown Elkton

Smith’s Grocery

Elkton Farm Store

Hide-A-Way Lounge

Old Hide-A-Way Lounge

City Hall

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


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

Elkton Cemetery

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


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

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 residents remember both good times and bad, and comment on the changes time has made in the community.

Forrest Bates, Best of Times

Beverly McGee, Winter Flood

Vivian Roland, Muddy Water

Ruth Mitchell, My Daddy Was a Farmer

Ruth Mitchell, Peddler’s Truck

Ruth Mitchell, Wash Day, Running Water

Ann Newton, Growing Up on Farm

Ann Newton, Picking Cotton

Ann Newton, No Electricity

Ann Newton, Snow Storm

Forrest Bates, Changes in Farming

Ann Newton, Peddler’s Truck

Ann Newton, Friday Night Suppers

Ann Newton, Dad Always in a Hurry

Ann Newton, Lye Soap, Hominy

Ann Newton, Wash Day

Ann Smith, Three-Mile Radius

Ann Smith, We Worked All the Time

Ann Smith, Picking Cotton

Ann Smith, The Only Things We Bought

Eva Claire Smith, Moving Back to Giles County

Forrest Bates, Family Responsibilities

Eva Claire Smith, The Galatians

Frances Suddarth, Helping Each Other

Doug Turner, Street Lights Elkton

Doug Turner, No Policeman

Doug Turner, Election Results

Doug Turner, Community

Doug Turner, Elkton Community

Doug Turner, Well Water

Doug Turner, Picking Cotton

Roosevelt Whitfield, Joining the National Guard

Forrest Bates, The Refrigerator

Roosevelt Whitfield, Meeting KKK Member

Roosevelt Whitfield, Segregation/Desegregation

Forrest Bates, Old Water System Elkton

Forrest Bates, South Giles Water System

Forrest Bates, Straw Taylor, Old Water System

Forrest Bates, Changes in City Government

Beverly McGee, We Bought Our Groceries

on to Lower Elkton >>