Facts and Fiction: (I don’t just make this stuff up.)

McKnight Station

McKnight Station

In my late teens I remember driving a country road out of Water Valley, Tennessee (the real one) up to Franklin, Tennessee in the next county.

For a Middle Tennessee backroad, it bordered on bizarre. Around here we have rolling hills and ridges. Old backroads are rambling affairs; typically following the point of least resistance and often making a right angle around somebody’s farm.

But this stretch of narrow highway was invariably flat, had gradual sweeping curves, and included some unbelievably lengthy straightaways. In time, I learned why. It used to be a railroad. One give away about the road’s original identity was the depot alongside the road that is pictured above. The depot was known as McKnight Station and was a little under five miles from Water Valley. (As a side note, the McKnight area was allegedly homestead to the Youngers who ran with Jesse James. James lived in Nashville for five years under an alias.)

The railroad was built after the turn on the last century to transport phosphate, which was booming in the area. The track ran approximately forty-two miles from Franklin, Tennessee to Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee and among other places, one of the railroad’s stops was Water Valley.

So, when I began to write about Hiram Hatcher in “The Fullness of Time,” I was drawn in by the enchantment of this inexplicable and unique country turnpike whose long, straight stretches still pass right through the remote hamlet of Water Valley. It also fascinated me that such an enterprise could have existed in what is still a sequestered area of pastoral farms, broad fields, and dense woods.

Add in the mix the fact that Al Capone actually stayed in Franklin on his trips from Chicago to Miami and…with the elements of a phosphate boom, conspicuous wealth, a newly built railroad, bootlegging, and a notorious gangster…along with a good dose of imagination, the rest is history. Or, at least, fictional history.

Somewhere around mid-century the phosphate boom ended, and the train track was abandoned. It is now known as Leipers Creek Road. It remains one of the most gorgeous drives in Tennessee.

I travel it often from my small farm in the Williamsport / Water Valley area to visit my son and his family who live in Franklin. And along the way, I pass by that old depot, still standing a hundred years later.IMG_6283

And my mind starts to wonder…..

Until next time!

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  1. Jim Walton says:

    I am the one who posted where the Water Valley track was leading. To J. J. Gray’s Ferrophosphate furnace in Rockdale south of Mount Pleasant in Maury County.

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